VULCAN GOES DUTCH
AN OLD BIKE AND A VOLCANO CYCLING WORLD MAGAZINE • AUGUST 2013
NICE BIKE, MARCO! ALPINE PASSES AND ADMIRING GLANCES
TO PORTSMOUTH AND BEYOND
THE SHIPWRIGHTS WAY AND HAMPSHIRE
CYCLE SHOW 2013 • TRY SARK, ASIA, DONEGAL • HARK TO BOUNTY PART 2 • MLJ BCQ ORKNEY • THE DORSET COAST • FROG BIKES AND MORE ... CW_AUG_2013_Cover_FINAL.indd 6
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Editor’s Letter Views from the Editor
50 Cycle Show 2013 The big show at the NEC
58 Informalistas More to cycling than riding a bike
12 Hark to Bounty - Part Two A fascination with a hidden village continues 16 Link to Wight IoW Festival 21 Simon’s Law The Cycling Solicitor 22 Vulcan goes Dutch A Greek retreat 26 Avast There! The Shipwrights Way - Part Two And much more pedalling in Hampshire 32 Why Cycle in Asia? On the Spice Roads 34 Brompton 2 : Cars 0 Earthly Paradise? 38 Reviews Summer reading 42 Products and Technical Lightweight for kids, chain tools. Silva lights and more
64 Orkney Saga MLJ on the BCQ 66 Puncture Proof Tyres 68 Want a Shirt? Buy a business 72 Tandem Time JD, JD Give me some answers do! 78 Monkey Boy meets Seaside King The Isle of Purbeck and beyond 84 Nice, Isn’t It? Well, rather …. 88 In a Pickle Michael Stenning talks to … 94 Nature’s Way Portuguese Reserves 96 2009; A Donegal Odyssey Ireland by Bike welcomes you
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VULCAN GOES IT'S TANDEM HISTORIC DALES? TIME DUTCH OCCASIONS TRY DURHAM, TEESDALE A NEW SERIES
CYCLING WORLD MAGAZINE MAGAZINE••MAY JUNE2013 2013 CYCLING WORLD MAGAZINE • AUGUST 2013
AN OLD BIKE AND WEARDALE WORLD CUP? CORONATION? AND A VOLCANO CYCLING?
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A DAY WITH JD TANDEMS MARCO! ALPINE PASSES AND ADMIRING GLANCES
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Welcome to CW for August 2013 Well, having ridden the route of the Dartmoor Sportive and met some of the members of the Mid-Devon Cycling Club who organise and host the event, I have been thinking about “the sport of cycling” and “the sort of cycling I do.” At first sight the connections are few and pretty frail. I have never been particularly interested in times and position, nor have I ever invested in a seriously lightwieght road bike. On reflection, though, it seems to me that I am not so far divorced from sport cycling as I first thought. Ron Keegan, one of the volunteers behind the Dartmoor Classic told me that whilst for most the sportive was a challenge against themselves and the elements, there were some who “stopped-off for a Sunday roast half way round.” In many ways, a sportive is a timed personal challenge – a leisure ride with a timing device attached. I have always enjoyed the challenge of cycling – on my own terms. Moreover, as with many sportives, the Dartmoor Classic offered two shorter routes, as well as the hundred and seven mile, 3407 metres of climbing, monster that forms the main event. I was particularly intrigued to see that the shortest route was reserved for women – a thirty mile “Debutante” ride. This was a rather wonderful attempt to encourage women who had started cycling, if many of the hi-vis vests were anything to go by, on Sky Rides and Breeze Rides, to develop their leisure cycling experience. I hope all participants enjoyed their ride. A year or so ago, we were all told that the success of Britain’s professional cyclists would lead to a massive “bounce” in participation in cycling and journeys made by bicycle. Whilst there seems to be an ever increasing demand for places in sportive events and it is being bandied round the business world that “cycling is the new golf ”, the hoped-for “bounce” did not materialise. A year later we have a campaign for strict liability gaining pace in Scotland, Jeremy Clarkson calling on people to cycle more, transport organisations and lobby groups calling for improved cycling infrastructure, Parliamentary reports and debates and recommendations left right and centre. Why didn’t the “bounce” in cycling journeys emerge? The much vaunted “bad weather” which is such an unusual phenomenon in our country? Who knows? Ned Boulting, a favourite cycling writer of mine, has written about our obsession with cycling. On the other hand it has been said that the British love cycling, but hate cyclists. I suppose you can be obsessive in hatred, though I don’t really hold with either view. Perhaps our mistake was to hope for a “bounce” based on professional success in professional sport, inspirational though that is to some. I wonder if those ladies waiting in the gusty wind and occasional showers that swept over Newton Abbot Race Course, promising a stormy time on the Moor, were inspired more by excellent Laura Trott, for example, or the excellent volunteer Breeze Ride leaders, or a little by each, or by neither. Perhaps we should know more? Or do we actually already know what action should be taken to increase the number of cycle journeys being made? We could ask the Danish, the Germans, the Dutch or even some cities in the USA and UK. Wherever the spring of their inspiration rose, it seemed fitting that the occasional rainbow spanned the scene at the start of the Dartmoor Classic Debutante ride. It is from the ranks of those who cycle a little or would like to start cycling that the “bounce” will come; those of us who already cycle for miles should be sympathetic, those who control the purse strings generous in support of grass-roots cycling and those with power to legislate active in making the bicycle the chosen means of transport for everyone, at least, some of the time. Enjoy your summer of cycling.
Cycling World Magazine Limited Crown House, John Roberts Business Park, Pean Hill, Nr Whitstable, Kent CT5 3BJ Tel: 01227 378390 Fax: 01227 784079 All material contained within Cycling World Magazine is protected by copyright. No material may be reproduced or used in any way without prior written permission of the publisher. © Cycling World Magazine Limited 2012 ISSN: 0143-0238 Competitions: Rules of entRy These rules apply to all competitions in Cycling World Magazine. Only one entry per household. Employees of Cycling World Magazine Limited and the relatives, plus employees of companies involved in the magazine are not eligible to enter, entries that fail to comply with these instructions will be disqualified. No Cash alternatives can be offered in lieu of prizes. All entrants must be UK residents and aged 18 years or over. The prize will be the particular item specified in the competition details. Winners will be notified within 7 days of the draw date. The editor’s decision is final. All postCARds: Each competition entry requires an individual postcard of a regular size, oversized cards will not be accepted. Please supply name, address, telephone number and email address (where applicable). Indicate cycling preference. Competition entries should be sent to: Cycling World Magazine, Crown House, John Roberts Business Park, Pean Hill, Nr Whitstable, Kent CT5 3BJ. For a list of winners and previous competition answers, please send an SAE to the above address specifying the date of issue in which you are interested.
Steve Fight for Sight Master of Stormont, the future Earl of Mansfield, William, 24, from Perthshire, will be leaving Scone Palace and cycling 2,800 miles in aid of Fight for Sight, the main UK charity dedicated to funding research to prevent sight loss. He hopes to complete the Black Sea Circumnavigation, passing through Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia and Turkey He’ll be cycling with ‘bike buddy’, Freddie Battle, also 24. Should you wish to donate please visit http://www.justgiving.com/FREDDIE-BATTLE-WILLIAM-STORMONT
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Not Your Average Charity Challenge A challenging bike ride is often used as a gruelling and admirable tool to help raise funds for charity, but the duo of Reza Pakravan and Steven Pawley really are taking things to another level. Starting on the 12th of August this year the pair are looking to set off on the infamous Kapp to Cape route, which starts from the North Cape in the Arctic Circle and travels 11,000 miles to the coastline of Cape Town. As if this wasn’t enough they are also looking to do the journey in a new World Record time, which will mean they will have to travel an average of 110 miles a day (that’s more than the Tour de France) for 100 days! Throw in some of the toughest terrain on earth and the fact each of the men will
have to carry 30kg of equipment and this adds up to what must be one of the most amazing charity rides ever undertaken. Motivating the two men is a powerful drive to raise £28,000 for the charity Azafady (www.madagascar.co.uk), which will help build two new schools in Madagascar, one of the poorest countries on the planet. Reza visited the island in 2009 to help physically build a school with the charity and was both shocked and amazed by the poverty of the people there, the terrible living conditions they endure and their incredible ability to always see the best in life and keep smiling. Since the trip he has made a pledge to continue supporting the charity and has already helped raise funds for their work.
Visit the website www.kapptocape.com to find out more.
WHAT A RELIEF Images - Credit:
World Bicycle Re
Evie Stevens, one of our top pro-cyclists, will be participating in a unique trip to Zambia in October, with riders able to witness the phenomenal work of World Bicycle Relief. Spanning nine days, the trip includes a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work
with local mechanics to build a World Bicycle Relief bike. The hand-built bicycle will be used for the remainder of the trip as riders join community healthcare workers on their visits to patients and pedal to and from school with students. Speaking of her involvement with the trip, Stevens said, “The bike has positively transformed my life and is an incredibly important tool to achieving happiness and independence. The work that World Bicycle Relief has been doing across Africa and the rest of the world is essential to help others transform their lives and the lives of their communities – and I’m so proud to be able to support such a
fantastic cause.” World Bicycle Relief was founded in 2005 by the Executive Vice President of SRAM, F.K. Day, and Leah Missbach Day in response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami. Today, they have almost 128,000 bicycles in use in rural regions of the world to support
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SUMMER VISIBILITY The press release says; “Get visible and fall in love with your bike by entering a new and exciting cycling challenge that is set to spread over Britain this summer.” The Bike Visibility Cycling Challenge offers “two weeks of fun on wheels” which will “raise the profile of cycling in Britain.” At the heart of the competition are the contestants and the photo stories created about their expeditions. Bike Visibility 2013 run by bakewellsoap.co.uk aims to create a buzz about cycling in the hope that the bicycling bounce that all the enthusiasm of the Olympics failed to produce will now materialise. The competition is about being seen and what you see on your rides. Contestants can boost their position on the leader board by earning bonus mileage in the separate mini challenges, with chances to win prizes from The Bakewell Soap Co and primaleurope.co.uk. Whatever the strategy, competitors must keep Bike Visibility updated with photo stories of rides and check out their position on the Endomondo Bike Visibility leader board. With the overall prize sponsored by athletestore. co.uk, the competition winner will take home a year’s supply of For Goodness Shakes and Nectar Fuel sports recovery drinks and The Bakewell Soap natural and organic face and body care products. The competition will run from 12th– 25th August 2013 and the overall winner will be selected by a panel of judges based upon distance covered, the three in-competition challenges and above all, the most compelling photo stories sent in. For further information and to sign up now, simply register at bakewellsoap.co.uk/bike_visibility_ challenge_2013.html
End of the road; Paul Spencer in Tarifa, Spain.
TRANS-EUROPE SPEED RECORD The cross-Europe cycling record has been smashed by seventeen days. Paul Spencer cycled 4,008 miles in just twenty-two days, eleven hours and thirty minutes, crossing twelve countries. Needless to say, Paul is an endurance athlete. Paul began his truly gruelling journey on May 12th, setting out from Europe’s most northerly tip, in Norway. He was aiming to finish in twentynine days, on June 10th, in Tarifa, Spain – Europe’s most southerly point. However, he reached his destination in early, obliterating the previous record of thirty-nine days. Paul dubbed his record attempt the “Tour d’Europe”, and passed through Norway, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, The Czech Republic, Germany, France and
Spain on the way to the record. He was raising money for the charity Lupus UK and for the Lupus Foundation of America, both of which help sufferers of Lupus, a rare but incurable immune system illness. KIMBERLY-CLARK PROFESSIONAL* pledged £15,000 in sponsorship and funding towards Paul’s “Tour d’Europe” as well as donating products to help him face his challenge, including wipes, toilet paper and protective glasses. Paul was the only cyclist on the trip. He was supported by a driver in a motor home, where he slept, and a chef to cook the energy-rich meals he needed to maintain his world record bid. A blog detailing his incredible feat can be read on his website, http://www.yeshesmad.com.
Paul Spencer presented with a cheque for the amount he has raised so far.
educational, environmental and healthcare initiatives, as well as disaster relief and social enterprise. “This exclusive adventure into rural Zambia will give riders a profound insight into the change that a humble bicycle can make to a community,” said Day. www.worldbicyclerelief.org www.evelynstevens.com
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HAS BEEN, COULD BE, SHOULD BE … The redevelopment of Gateshead town centre is not only proving to be great news for shoppers – cyclists are benefitting, too. More than £1.5m has been spent on cycling improvements in and around the new Trinity Square development to encourage people to visit the centre by bike. Improvements include new Toucan crossings, major road junction improvements, a new shared cycle route, improved signage and additional on-street cycle parking stands for 116 bicycles. Undercover cycle parking has also been provided in the Trinity Square underground car park where there is space for another 228 bicycles. By far the biggest single improvement has been the pedestrianisation of West Street, which has removed almost all traffic apart from cyclists from this busy route to and from the Tyne and High Level bridges. It is hoped that the new facilities will encourage more motorists to swap their car keys for bike clips in a bid to improve their health and reduced traffic congestion. Councillor John McElroy, Cabinet spokesman for Transport and himself a keen cyclist, says: “Despite Tyneside’s everincreasing growth in traffic, or perhaps because of it, we are seeing a definite increase in the number of people choosing to cycle, either for pleasure or for transport. It is well-known that taking traffic away from busy shopping streets helps to make town centres more attractive to shoppers. We can’t do that everywhere of course, but introducing improvements to make cycling easier and more convenient may encourage people to leave their car at home and make that short trip to town by bicycle instead, and that will definitely help.” In 2000, a Tyne and Wear wide survey found that 93% of the population were in favour of creating safe routes for cyclists and walkers, and 64% thought local councils should improve facilities for cyclists. Since then, there has been a
Gateshead; a cyclist uses one of the new cycle parking stands in West Street.
steady increase in the numbers of people choosing to travel by bike. The opening of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge in 2001 quickly led to an additional 94,000 crossTyne cycle trips being recorded each year, an increase of 186%. Other Gateshead cycle routes such as the Derwent Walk, the East Gateshead Cycleway and the Keelman’s Way have seen similar substantial increases in use. Meanwhile, the latest road safety – or lack of it – statistics show a happy reduction in deaths and injuries for every group …. except cyclists. Brake, the road safety charity which supports families and individuals bereaved or suffering from lifechanging injuries following a road crash, has expressed deep concern that cyclist deaths and serious injuries continue to rise as do pedestrian serious injuries, meaning more of the most vulnerable road users are bearing the brunt of road danger. Headline figures were, that 118 people were killed and 3,222 people were seriously injured when cycling in 2012, a 10% increase in cyclist deaths and 4% increase in serious injuries. For pedestrians, 420 people were killed and 5,559 people were seriously injured on foot in 2012, a 7% decrease in pedestrian deaths but a 2% increase in serious injuries. In response they urge greater action from government to protect people on foot and bike. As part of the GO 20 campaign, Brake is calling for 20mph to be the norm in our cities, towns and villages: making them safer, healthier, nicer places and urging drivers everywhere to make a personal commitment to drive at 20mph, to protect vulnerable road users, around homes, schools and shops. However, even motoring organisations are calling for improvements to cycling infrastructure. IAM director of policy and research Neil Greig said: “IAM welcomes a return to the long-term improvements in road safety that the UK has been rightly recognised for. Last year was a clear
Gateshead; cyclists using the newly-pedestrianised West Street outside Trinity Square
Gateshead; new cycle stands outside of Tesco in Trinity Square
warning for government that complacency in road safety cost lives.” “The IAM has always warned that failing to match investment in segregated facilities with the growing numbers of cyclists would lead to an increase in death and serious injury and this worrying trend continues. A ten per cent increase in cycling deaths in a year when the weather suppressed cycling trips is a real red danger signal that simply cannot be ignored.” Of course, in most European countries infrastructure improvements are supported by legislation, in particular “strict liability.” The campaign for strict liability for Scotland’s cyclists has secured support across the political spectrum, a symbol of greater political recognition its importance in safeguarding cyclists and improving road safety. MSPs Alison Johnstone (Green), Richard Lyle (SNP), John Lamont (Conservative), Tavish Scott (Liberal Democrat) and Jean Urquhart (Independent) have given their backing to the “Road Share” campaign. This calls for a change in Scots civil law to ensure cyclists injured in road collisions are compensated quickly and fairly, by establishing a hierarchical structure to identify responsibility. The show of support comes just days after the publication of the Scottish Government’s Cycle Action Plan (CAPS) which indicates a desire for continued debate and discussion on the introduction of strict liability to protect vulnerable cyclists. There is evidence from the continent to show that stricter liability in civil law is an integral component in a package of measures designed to create, like France, or strengthen, like the Netherlands, a culture of cycling. The MSPs are now adding their names to an online petition to see a change in the law to bring Scotland in line with the rest of Europe (link http://ow.ly/lSnFG) and lending their support to the campaign alongside celebrities, including Nick Nairn, cycling organisations and driving schools.
10 Cycling World | www.cyclingworldmag.com
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SLAidBURN | tours
hark to bounty! part tWo Having ridden to Slaidburn, Tim Bird waits for his dinner and considers the Youth Hostelling movement and cycling â€Ś and meets Bananaman
Above: Sign outside the Hark to Bounty
he English hostelling movement began in the late 1920s when, amongst others, a group of young ramblers from Liverpool went to Germany to experience the already well-established hostelling movement. The latter was founded by Richard Schirrmann, a teacher, whose idea for simple inexpensive accommodation for young people on school trips received considerable support. He also shared the ideals of the then flourishing Wandervogel (Wanderbird) movement that celebrated the urge to roam and was itself based on a much older tradition among the young craftsmen and students of Central Europe. The first German hostel opened in 1912 and the number grew to over two thousand by 1928. Later, during The Great War, Schirrmann observed one of the spontaneous Christmas ceasefires
between French and German troops. He then imagined how an international hostel movement might encourage friendship and understanding between nations instead of conflict. Between the wars German youth hostels prospered but, in due course, were co-opted by the Nazis and Schirrmann was forced out. Post 1945, from the ruins, he laboured once again to rebuild the organisation. The English visitors were enthused by what they saw in 1929, returning home determined to build a similar organisation for young men and women. It was a movement whose time had come. The English YHA reached its zenith after the end of The Second World War, when many young people on slender means yearned for freedom outdoors. Their collective achievements in working together voluntarily to set-up new hostels
and their adventures on foot and by bicycle are inspiring. Times have changed and the YHA has had to move with them. Increased incomes, a multitude of home entertainments and theme parks have lessened the demand for hostels and necessitated installing greater creature comforts. At the Kingâ€™s House, Slaidburn, though, I can feel the original spirit of the YHA through the people Iâ€™ve met there, the building and its contents. Still somewhat basic, in the sense that it does not offer meals - instead you cook for yourself, or forage outside - the hostel is a labyrinth of stairs, narrow passages, low doorways (watch your head!) and odd nooks. Add to this its secluded situation amongst the Bowland Hills and you have something quite special. Returning to the back courtyard I spot
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SLAidBURN | tours a couple, the hostel wardens, waving at me from their office. Keen to check in and grab a bunk, I step down into the kitchen, find the connecting door open and walk along a narrow passage to the office. David and Jenny, an older couple, wiry and fit, greet me from behind the hinged wooden counter. I pay a modest fee for the night and, as the hostel is quiet, I get a choice of rooms. My favourite bunk, upstairs looking out front toward the Hark to Bounty and the village shop, is where I lay my hat and panniers. Quickly preparing my bunk and admiring the view onto the village crossroads, I hurry back outdoors to enjoy the remaining daylight. On the way out I open the side door in the kitchen to reveal a charming cobbled yard; a tiny affair hidden within the building and set with benches and plants. I stroll down the road toward the church, passing a fine 18th century building, named “Brennands”, set with myriad windows. It was the former Endowed Grammar School and now makes a truly eye-catching primary school. Next door is St. Andrew’s church, standing on an ancient site at the southern end of the village. Inside, whilst I try to view a dimly lit display of local history, a door clunks with a sepulchral thud and the main lights blink on. Screwing up my eyes to adjust from dark to light I see the Reverend George Darby, the priest in charge. We chat and he tells me he is newly arrived from his last “posting” in Cornwall, and has come in to prepare for tomorrow’s Sunday service. He holds a bunch of keys, amongst which dangles one of immense size. This turns out to be the front door key. It recently broke. A regular locksmith was of no use in effecting a repair, instead a blacksmith was required. I enquire who decides that he re-locate to a different parish. “Ah, that’s the Bishop!” he replies. “So the Bishop is your boss,” I ask.
Top Right: Crossing the Bowland Hills with Scamp Left: Vintage poster, Springfield Tournament
He pauses briefly to consider, before continuing, “Some might say the Bishop is my boss.” Then he leans in conspiratorially whilst pointing heavenward. “I like to think that actually HE is my boss; the Bishop is, well, kind of like my line manager.” Leaving him setting out hymn books, I walk back toward the King’s House where, in the gathering dusk, I note the almost complete lack of street lighting. The twilit village buildings have a very pleasing conformity to the eye; a lack of jarring modern developments, an absence of loud colours, plastic tat, and junk. It’s as if I’ve stepped back in time, to perhaps the 1930’s. While the roosting blackbirds “pink-pink”, only the occasional passing car breaks the spell. Largely owned by a single family (the King-Wilkinsons) for almost 200 years, Slaidburn has remained mostly unspoilt by development. Some locals still talk of the “squire” and his family. On reaching the village centre I stand in front of the Hark to Bounty and gaze up at the sign, softly lit, glowing in the dark. It depicts an indoors drinking scene with a couple of period gents around a window where a large hound, its paws up on the window sill, looks in from outside. Apparently the hound was called Bounty and objecting to being left outside the inn by his master he went to the window and howled. Indoors, his owner exclaimed to his drinking companions: “Hark to Bounty!”, thus coining the inn’s name. Outside are seats, perhaps the same ones that Dave and I sat on all those years ago at the start of our cycle ride north to Scotland. Upstairs the Hark to Bounty houses the original Moot Courtroom of the Forest of Bowland. This large room, set behind a thick metal-studded door, is where, in former times, tenants of the Forest came to pay their rents. In addition, law-breakers were tried and sentenced; the high-backed benches, wooden-walled dock and witness box are still there. The old courtroom is not
forgotten. On my last visit I found a pair of glitter covered angel wings lying on a temporary stage set amidst the sober wood panelling Naturally, the inn is a place to gravitate to on an evening when staying at the King’s House hostel and, depending on one’s budget, there is also excellent local food. I once spent a pleasant and informative evening playing dominoes there with some fellow hostellers, one of whom, visiting from Australia, travelled the world studying undersea volcanoes. He and his wife had just spent the day on a hike with the bestselling American author Bill Bryson. On another occasion, visiting by tandem with my fiancée, Scamp, we enjoyed a slap-up meal flanked on one side by a meeting of the local Girl Guide leaders and on the other, the village committee in earnest debate. Clearly the family run inn is the centre of village life. Returning to the hostel, I rustle-up a meal of pasta, tinned mackerel, and broccoli in the well-appointed kitchen, whilst chatting to a newly arrived group of hikers from Staffordshire. They bemoan how utterly saturated the moor tops were after the wet summer, making me glad I came by bicycle. A few years ago I walked the 14 miles to the hostel from Settle, on what turned out to be one of the wettest days of the year. Rivers and becks were in spate and lashing rain sheeted down newly ploughed fields to coalesce into gouts of chocolaty mud, necessitating immense boot-sucking diversions. On arrival at the hostel I gave thanks and hung my sodden disintegrating map across a radiator to dry. That night with the wind thumping and rain dashing against my bedroom window, I peered between the curtains toward the Hark to Bounty where the inn’s sign swung and creaked above the sluicing street. I felt especially glad of the hostel that night and next morning, in brightening skies, pummelled by gusts and pelted
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SLAidBURN | tours by stinging showers, I staggered over the Bowland tops following the Roman road toward Hornby. I met no-one and, buried in my waterproof, caught in a dark violent summit squall, I felt the chill of an eerie presence close behind. Shivering, I hastened off the gloomy tops down into the sunlit apple orchards of Roeburndale. Dinner, taken by tray to the dining room is for me, alas, a solitary affair tonight as the hikers have left for a well-earned meal at the Hark. I have a chance to study the room, a former bar, more closely. Above the tables and chairs, on the walls, are various maps, newspaper cuttings and two attractive reproductions of vintage cycling posters; one French and the other American. The posters illustrate a particular period in the 1880’s when a boom in cycling, coincided with a golden age of illustration called the Poster Movement. The high wheelers, known as “Penny Farthings”, were being rapidly replaced by low mount machines with two equally sized wheels and a chain drive. These bicycles were less prone to dumping their riders off head-first and thus had broad appeal to both men and women. At the same time new printing processes allowed the cheap mass production of quality stylish images designed to capture the attention of potential customers. Typically the designs were bold, simple and used a limited range of colours, producing an image with a flat two-dimensional feel. The French poster, titled: “La Chaîne Simpson”, depicts a bustling race meeting focussing on a solo rider tailing a tandem, all the riders hunched over in earnest competition. Studying this poster repeatedly during various meals, I was puzzled as to its meaning and I thought the artist’s representation of the bike chains was poor, surely an attempt by a non-cyclist. Some background research proved that I was very wrong. It turns out that the artwork, by Toulouse-Lautrec no less, accurately depicts the unusual triangular Simpson Lever chain. In fact Lautrec was a keen fan of cycling and attended many events including those, later termed the Chain Matches, where the manufacturer, Simpson, offered ten to one odds that riders with his chain would beat those equipped with ordinary chains. These races were held at the Catford track in London in 1896 and drew crowds of many thousands. Top-notch solo riders battled it out and Simpson brought over from Paris the Gladiator pacing team. The latter, riding five-seaters, known as “quints”, enabled the solo racers to draft and go faster by shielding them from air resistance. Toulouse-Lautrec travelled with the French team and sketched Constant Huret, a famous rider, in action paced by the Gladiators. Inspect the poster closely and you will also see, two figures looking on from the centre of the track; Tristan Bernard, the
French velodrome sports director, and Louis “Spoke” Bouglé, the French agent for Simpson chains, whose name features on the poster. Simpson won the Chain Matches but it was only proof that the Gladiator pacers were better than their English rivals. The second dining room poster is an eye-catching advertisement for the 1895 Springfield Bicycle Club Tournament. Hailing from the same bike-boom poster movement era, it shows three solo riders locked in competition cycling across a background fluttering with winged club crests. Bold orange highlights the key features on this poster, designed by Will H. Bradley, one of the premier American graphic artists of his time. After establishing himself as an illustrator in the Art Nouveau style he moved from Chicago to the industrial city of Springfield by the Connecticut River, in Massachusetts. The city had become the centre of a bustling bicycle industry and the Springfield Bicycle Club built a large racing track nearby at Hampden Park, where they hosted international tournaments. One, three, five and ten mile races were held, for amateur and professional riders, in front of thousands of spectators. Early races featured high-wheelers and tandem tricycles, later supplanted by the up-coming low-mount “safety” bikes. After a few years the annual Springfield Tournament became so popular that normal city business ceased for the duration. I love to see these two framed posters in the King’s House dining room and they set me thinking of a time before I was born, in the pre-1950s, when the YHA handbook stated: “Regulation One: Youth Hostels are for the use of members who travel on foot, by bicycle, or canoe; they are not for members touring by motor car, motor cycle, or any power-assisted vehicle”. From the earliest days the YHA made it clear motorists were not welcome. However declining public transportation and increased private car ownership eventually made an end to the “no cars” regulation. Today the King’s House still sees a good number of cyclists, it being a favoured stop on some Land’s End to John ‘o’ Groats routes and central to a large network of
Above: Bananaman and Betty Below: Vintage poster, The Chain Matches
quiet lanes and bridleways, not far from urban centres in the north of England. Among the usual mountain bikers, road racers and tourers, occasionally someone truly unique rolls up to stay. A few years ago Scamp and I arrived at the King’s House where Betty, the warden, informed me that another cyclist was staying the night, “Bananaman, you’ve probably heard of him, oh, he’s a great traveller by bicycle!” I shook my head, baffled by the name. Later it was my good fortune to be introduced to Bananaman who, with a broad toothy smile, shook my hand in his tatty cycling gloves. Dressed in a black, wooden-toggled Duffelcoat, with odd socks, baggy shorts, and a well-worn baseball cap he was sunburnt, trim and muscular from a life spent cycling. Bananaman proved to be a mine of information. From his urban base near Manchester he pedals his way onto the continent every year, France being a particular favourite. He related some of his adventures and chatted in a relaxed laconic manner, punctuated by nods and expressions of agreement: “Oh yeeeeeeah, oh yeeeeeah” in a long drawling, Lancashire accent. Just being around Bananaman made Scamp and I feel calmer, less hurried, little interested in daily mileage figures and much more in the location of the next café. He was chilled, really chilled! Bananaman’s small backpack for carrying valuables was the scruffiest item imaginable, but he worked on the premise that such an object would never be worth stealing. Having ranged abroad as far as Australia, always on his bike, as well as many quiet lanes throughout England, cycling for him is truly a lifestyle. His nick-name “Bananaman”
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SLAidBURN | tours reflects a predilection for that fruit whilst on the road and his occasional messages to me since out first encounter end invariably with the salutation: “Cycling Joy!” After finishing my meal and washing up I stop by the office to talk at length to the wardens, Jenny and David. They want to know where I’ve come from and what my plans are for tomorrow. In turn they tell me of a lifetime working on aid contracts abroad, from Tanzania to Papua New Guinea, and, in-between, hiking in Britain and Europe. We chuckle together as they recall a delayed internal African flight - the president’s pet pig refused to board the plane - and my shock when I was accused of smuggling gemstones out of Zambia. I had thoughtlessly tossed some attractive but valueless minerals, picked up whilst hiking, amongst the clothes in my suitcase. A routine airport search sent them clattering across the table where they were gathered up and held aloft by an official who declared emphatically “Diamonds!” Scenting blood, a large eager crowd gathered as I reeled and stammered my explanations. Inquiring about two battered Yugoslavian bicycles I spotted earlier, parked in the hostel’s back yard, Jenny replies: “Oh yes they’re ours. David and I bought them whilst hiking out there and then used them to cycle back to Britain, they’re still going strong”. Wow, I’m impressed by this couple! Our conversation includes the usual exchange of outdoor chit-chat, top tips for interesting hikes, trends in cycling and good hostels to visit. David says that this type of verbal exchange is now somewhat diminished by the more recent use of hostels by folks not interested in the outdoors but simply wanting a budget place to stay. Much to Jenny’s amusement, he recalls a recent instance when he asked a man at dinner in a hostel what he’d been doing outdoors for the day and the man
Above: The key to St Andrew’s Below: Brennands school
replied “Hey mate, I’m just stopping here for a few days whilst doing a contract for British Telecom.” Not quite what the founders of the Youth Hostel movement had in mind. Joining the YHA more years ago than they care to remember and paying the princely sum of eight guineas for life membership, Jenny and David are now retired. They enjoy a spot of volunteer wardening here and there whilst filling the gaps in their hiking wish list. I’ve met quite a few YHA old-timers and I’m always struck by their warm memories of hikes, cycle rides and social occasions anchored by sojourns in characterful hostels, often in conditions that would be considered Spartan by today’s standard. A recent upgrade at The King’s House
means that I enjoy excellent showers and bathrooms plus very acceptable central heating. Last year a man I met in the hostel remembered when the men’s dormitory was a single large unheated room and to wash meant having to use a cold water tap in the back yard. I wouldn’t fancy that. Plumbing upgrades or not, the camaraderie of the outdoors is not yet dead and, one frosty autumn night, I joined a crowd of adventurers gathered around the fire in the lounge of the King’s House. The merry band included a piratical character from Cornwall, the warden (an Irish lady), a love-struck couple from Italy and Argentina and an avid collector of northern Methodist chapels, who hailed from Blackburn. I have no doubt international relations were improved that night and perhaps the sip or two from the circulating brandy bottle helped. If travelling unaccompanied, by choosing to stay at a youth hostel, I invariably find companionship, good stories, and excellent tips for the road ahead. Tonight, before retiring to bed, I stick my head into the deserted lounge to thumb through the stack of old Cyclist’s Touring Club (CTC) magazines and recall how, eight years ago, I re-discovered CTC here and promptly joined the world’s oldest cycling organisation. They strive to represent the many facets of modern cycling and, like the YHA, have had to move and adapt with changing times. From their beginnings YHA and CTC have always shared common interests and in the early days of hostels there was a touch of rivalry with the hikers fearing the cyclists might take over. In truth they needed each other and today most hostels have secure bike storage and even basic bicycle maintenance tools on hand. The CTC magazine, “Cycle” is crowded with political debate (helmet laws or not?), inspirational adventures (from sportives to touring with kids), new technology (battery powered bicycles), and bike reviews (folding frames to Dutch cargo carriers). There is a lot going on and perhaps the Guardian newspaper is correct to announce recently: “Trend Alert! Cycling, the new rock and roll – how long before cycling becomes as big as football?” The Financial Times has steadily tracked the huge rise in popularity of the sportive and the eight year old British cycle clothing company Rapha. Promoting the romance of road cycling, Rapha will now succeed Adidas as kit supplier to the Sky Tour de France team. In turn this sparks spirited online exchanges debating the pros and cons of expensive designer cycling gear versus charity shop woollens. With all those happy, timeless memories shared by so many people, Tim heads to bed and, we promise, he’ll get back on his bike next time, for the completion of his journey through cycling time in company with a hostel in the Forest of Bowland.
www.cyclingworldmag.com | Cycling World 15
IOW | FESTIVAL
Link to Wight Gearing Up For A Host Of Wight Cycling Challenges
All photos courtesy and copyright of Lee Higham
ver 200 miles of cycle tracks, byways and bridleways will come alive on the Isle of Wight this September when the annual Cycling Festival provides a two-week window of bike riding opportunity on the Island named by the Lonely Planet as one of the best places in the world to go cycling. There will be over 60 bike rides – some of them challenging and competitive, others designed for the sheer fun of it. Last year’s festival attracted over 4,400 competitors, participants and spectators, but the organisers are hoping for an ever bigger turn out this September because the event has been extended to two weeks and will cover three weekends for the first time from 14-29 September. From the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty countryside of West Wight to the familiar east coast resorts of Shanklin and Ryde, the Isle of Wight Cycling Festival, again sponsored by crossSolent ferry operator Wightlink, features rides along quiet country lanes, through picturesque villages, over hilly ridges and on coastal trails by the sea. Whether the biker is a keen novice or a budding Bradley Wiggins, there are themed rides, family bike master classes and a carbon cycle celebration that launches the event on 14 September with a free day of entertainment in Island capital Newport. Most testing of all will be the Hills Killer, a mountain bike ride in which cyclists take on the challenge of a 13, 26 or 52 mile orienteering event against the clock as they pit their bike against three, seven or fourteen hills. Last year’s participants called it a “really tough
challenge” and “very muddy” too and feedback suggests that those riders who plump for the 52 mile course will need to train hard on similar terrain in the weeks before it takes place on the first weekend of the festival (September 15th). Endurance riders have two contrasting events to choose from. On September 22nd the British Heart Foundation will mount its annual Cycle the Wight sponsored road ride. This is a 70-mile endurance ride that traces a route around the Island, following rural and minor roads where possible, and with four different start points where cyclists can join the ride. A weekend later, on September 28th the Isle of Wight Mountain Bike Centre has created an off-road enduro event to test riders’ skills. A circular trail of approximately three miles of downhill and single-track has been constructed on private farmland at Cheverton Farm in Shorwell for the Wight Mountain 6hr Chevy Chase, promising cyclists a series of challenging rider-built jumps and berms,
weaving through woodland. Those cyclists who like to combine pedal power with other disciplines should check out the Wightlink Wight Challenge (September 21st), which will see teams of three cycle 18 miles, canoe three miles and run eight miles in aid of Wessex Heartbeat, a Southampton-based charity, which supports cardiac care, Sail4Cancer, which provides respite days for families affected by cancer and The Rainbow Centre, which helps children with cerebral palsy, stroke victims and adults with Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s. Isle of Wight Cycling Festival sponsor Wightlink carries bike free on its cross-Solent ferries and is offering Cycling Festival participants special rates for ferry travel. You can find out about these by visiting www.wightlink. co.uk. For full programme details, check the festival website – www. sunseaandcycling.com – and to enter the Wightlink Wight Challenge go to www.wightchallenge.co.uk
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Sunday 15 September
mber e T p e S 9 14 TO 2
MOUNTAIN BIKE CHALLENGE A challenging orienteering event against the clock; pit your bike against the three, seven or fourteen hills. www.sunseaandcycling.com
Saturday 28 September
Off-road enduro event created to test ridersâ€™ skills, endurance. and saddle stamina! Approximately threemile circular trail of downhill and single track. www.wightmountain.com
NEw for 2013
Saturday 28 September Saturday 21 September
FEStIvAL tS hIGhLIGh
A 19 mile mountain bike ride, two mile open canoeing and eight mile run for fit teams of three. Help raise money for the charities Wessex Heartbeat, Sail 4 Cancer and The Rainbow Centre. www.wightchallenge.co.uk
CYCLE t thE WIGh
The outdoor Cycle Cinema is run using pedal-power; there is no stored energy just the pedalling of about a dozen people! Vote for your favourite from a list of suggested films by visiting www.sunseaandcycling.com
Er Sunday 29 September Sunday 22 September
ASE ChE vY Ch ro ENdu
anding Natural Be
In an Area of Outst
M YCLING.CO Seventy or fifty mile endurance challenge road ride around the Island. www.bhf.org.uk
A fun event that includes a 600m pool swim, 35km cycle along the spectacular Military Road and a 7.5km run, with a very friendly welcome and stunning scenery. www.westwight.co.uk
WWW.SUNSEAANDCYCLING.COM CW_AUG_2013_Ads.indd 17
Explore the Islandâ€™s 500 miles of outstanding natural beauty The Isle of Wight has over 200 miles of cycle routes enticing you into the countryside or along the coast. There are a raft of cycling events on the Isle of Wight this autumn, choose from the annual Isle of Wight Cycling Festival which includes over 60 rides geared to suit cyclists of all ages and abilities, or why not take part in the Wightlink Wight Challenge, which also involves canoeing 2 miles and running 8 miles! Special rates are available for competitors online
Discover miles of smiles on the Isle of Wight, with Wightlink wightlink.co.uk/cycling
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0 g y
Wonderful West Wight
Sunrise, Freshwater Bay
Somewhere you find… a secret you share. Here in our quiet corner of the Isle of Wight you’ll find every opportunity to rediscover the simple pleasures of a traditional British holiday… spectacular cycle rides in a dramatic landscape with winding country lanes, extensive beaches and rolling downs. For somewhere to stay visit
The ONLY luxury, purpose built Isle of Wight accommodation on a designated cycle route Rural location Short cycle ride from seaside resorts Car parking Promoting green tourism Luxury double bedded/twin rooms Award winning breakfast
OPEN OPEN ALL ALL YEAR YEAR
An ideal location for those who appreciate unspoilt countryside with birds and wildlife in abundance. T: 01983 867735 M: 07974 755598 firstname.lastname@example.org www.rosemarycottagebreaks.co.uk
Eco-friendly camping with the Really Green Holiday Company Our secluded yurt site is surrounded by great cycle routes in the heart of the beautiful West Wight. We offer tailor made cycling holidays or just a comfortable place to stay. 07802 678591 www.thereallygreenholidaycompany.com
Welcome to the heart of the Isle of Wight Nettlecombe Farm is nestled in the heart of the rolling Isle of Wight countryside. It is a working farm that offers luxurious self-catering holiday accommodation, coarse fishing, yoga retreats and function barn hire. • Converted farm buildings providing comfortable and modern places to stay - for up to 10 people. • Perfect base to explore the island with many walks and cycling routes, and miles of scenic coastline nearby. • Ideal for families - grassed play areas, toddlers play equipment, sports area for older children etc. • Short breaks available between October and May.
01983 730783 email@example.com www.nettlecombefarm.co.uk
The original since 1986
Cyclewight has been campaigning to improve facilities for cyclists on the Isle of Wight since 1993. We work with the CTC, Cyclenation, Sustrans and the I.W.Council, as well as local clubs including the Wayfarers Cycle Touring Club. The current cycle track network is being improved with sustainable transport funding obtained by the Council.
Exclusive Adams hitch design is simple to install and ensures a safe, enjoyable ride. Fits all sizes of lead bicycles and folds compactly for easy travel and storage.
Cyclewight will be at the launch day event of the Cycling Festival on the 14th September, and at the Cycling Cinema on the 28th September at Seaclose park.
We offer excellent facilities in a beautiful location • • • • • •
Amazing views from most pitches & holiday caravans Excellent toilet, shower and laundrette facilities including clothes drying room Heated indoor pool Heated outdoor pool (open until mid Sept) Shop and takeaway Fantastic walking and cycling from the park
Photo: Margus Riga
EASY HITCH SYSTEM
See the website for more details.
/paligap.cc Adams Trail-a-Bikes are exclusively distributed in the UK by www.paligap.cc
PROLEGAL | THE BIKE SOLICITOR
SIMON’S LAW Simon Edwards is Principal Solicitor at Prolegal, and acts for cyclists in personal injury cases. He campaigns for improved cycling infrastructure and advices cyclists through www.thebikesolicitor.co.uk
On your head be it...
hether or not cycling helmets should be made compulsory remains a heated debate among policymakers. Despite attempts to change the law, it isn’t compulsory to wear a helmet in the UK, although cyclists are encouraged to wear them. In fact, there is strong evidence that making helmets compulsory can have serious negative effects. In Australia, where helmets became compulsory in 1991, a number of studies have suggested they deter people from cycling. There is also evidence that cyclists wearing cycle helmets are more likely to be injured – whether because motorists take less care for their safety or because the cyclists themselves take more risks when wearing helmets. The Australian studies have shown that the legislation has increased hospital admissions per cyclist on the road, reduced the popularity of cycling by over 20%, damaged public health and increased total road casualties. Even though helmets aren’t compulsory in the UK, not wearing one can have significant consequences if you’re injured in an accident caused by a motorist or even a pothole in the road. A cyclist who doesn’t wear a helmet runs the risk that any compensation may be lower than would otherwise be the case. To understand the legal position, the best place to look is at the law relating to wearing a seat belt in a car or van. It became compulsory for the driver and front seat passenger to wear seat belts in the UK in 1983, and for rear seat
passengers to wear them in 1991. Since 1976 the legal effect of failure to wear a seat belt has been as decided in a case called Froom v Butcher. In that case the judge stated that if a driver or passenger fails to wear a seat belt and is injured, the at-fault driver can argue that the injured claimant contributed to his injuries by his failure to wear a seat belt. This is what is known as contributory negligence, and where a claimant is found to have been contributorily negligent, his damages can be reduced to take into account the degree of their contribution to their injuries. In Froom v Butcher the court held that if the evidence showed that if the claimant had been wearing a seat belt, he would have escaped injury altogether, the claimant’s damages should be reduced by up to 25%, and if the claimant would still have suffered injury but much less severe injury, damages should be reduced by 15%. The courts have on many occasions been invited by at-fault drivers or their insurers to depart from Froom v Butcher and make higher deductions. In one recent case the evidence indicated that a young claimant who suffered catastrophic brain injury in an accident would have suffered little or no injury if he had been wearing a seat belt. The defendants tried to persuade the court that a larger reduction should be applied. However there has so far been no case where the courts have deducted more than the maximum Froom v Butcher 25%. This is because the direct cause of the claimant’s injuries in all these cases is the negligent driving of the defendant resulting
in a collision, not the claimant’s failure to wear a seat belt. Similarly for cyclists involved in accidents, failure to wear a helmet is never the direct cause of their injuries. In fact, while there are many accidents where the wearing of a helmet reduces or prevents injury, the evidence on the difference wearing a cycle helmet would have made to the extent of injury is seldom as clear-cut as in seat belt cases. Wearing seat belts was not compulsory at the time Froom was decided, but the change in the law made no difference to the attitude of the courts. Although a number of judges have commented that cyclists could have their damages reduced for failing to wear a helmet, I am not aware of any case where this has happened in the UK. Motor insurers do regularly try to argue that claimants’ damages should be reduced where they failed to wear a cycle helmet. Claimants and their lawyers should be very slow to concede contributory negligence. The claimant’s injuries were caused by the defendant’s bad driving, not by the claimant’s failure to wear a helmet. All cyclists should have a clear understanding of the risks they run if they do not wear a cycle helmet, not only of serious head injury, but also of reduced compensation if they do have an accident. But it’s right that cyclists should be free to weigh up the risks for themselves and make their own decision whether or not to wear a helmet. Simon Edwards, Principal Solicitor at city law firm, Prolegal.
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greece | tours
vulCan goes dutCh Geoff Nelder dismisses the derision of goat-herding girls, performs forward rolls in the kitchen and rides up a volcano on an old bike – and that’s his idea of a retreat …
F Above: Vathy, destination for refreshment Right: Going up, near Karmeni
or the last five years this life-long cyclist has attended an annual writers’ holiday with a group of writers on the internet forum, UK Authors. We use the opportunity to be away from the domesticity of home to discover new settings for our stories, new writer friends, and a peaceful time to contemplate and write. With UK Authors I’ve had laughs and used dynamic verbs in Northern Cyprus, Carmarthen, Southern Cyprus, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and now Methana, in Greece. Whenever I can, cycling comes into the holiday. I can’t write endlessly like some of the others. My legs itch to rotate after a couple of hours. Limnisa is on the northern coast of the Peloponnese volcanic peninsular of Methana and is a retreat (for anyone, not just writers) run by Mariel Hacking and Philip Wooderson. Their website is at the end of
this article. When, in the summer of 2012, I booked to go to Limnisa, my main aim was to write a big chunk of my science fiction trilogy, ARIA, however, the first volume was published in August and that event had its own agenda. So, I had a writerly shopping list: write blog entries for the blog tour, and THEN write more on ARIA 3. Sneaking in among all that was the urge to write my anecdotes collected while cycling on the wrong side of the road in warm countries. By chance, Limnisa offers a selection of bicycles for free use. Okay, they aren’t carbon fibre with the tag Boardman printed on them but the main alternative was to hire a smarty pants bike in Athens or Piraeus and ride the 120 km to Limnisa. I seriously considered doing that but it would mean posting on my luggage. Maybe next time. Climbing out of the easyJet Airbus onto
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the tarmac at Athens Airport a wall of dry heat hit me. It was 38oC – hotter than my body temperature. Plan B – cycle in the cooler mornings when it is climbing from 22oC to around 30 by midday. Writing and deleting ran along in the afternoons although a dip in the sea became a regular habit, too. Lots of great salads including rice, potatoes, homemade humus, and other veggie delights helped put back calories lost on the cycle rides. You’ll see from the photograph, the space I called The Office. Once I looked up from my laptop and saw a Gecko checking my split infinitives. I slept in a modern studio apartment two kilometres from Limnisa. As usual with my “abroad” cycling, I wanted to photograph the bicycle on the balcony. So I made sure the patio doors opened enough and went out the front to fetch the bike (specs later). Sadly, the door swung closed behind me – key inside. Ah, 1pm and there’s me wearing cycling shorts and nothing else. No shirt, no shoes or socks, no phone. I could’ve ridden the bike barefoot to Limnisa but they wouldn’t have had a spare key. So I knocked on the other five apartment doors, hoping to find the maintenance person. No reaction. The balcony is one floor up, so if I could
Top Left: The solidified plug of the volcano Top Right: The 25-yearold Dutch Batavus Champion Bottom Left: Geoff on the Batavus near Saint Georgias Bottom Right: Where I sat and wrote in the heat of the day
find a ladder ... I entered the open-door basement. Marvellous down there: a kitchen, table, tools, sandals that fit me, but no ladder. I went through a large hole punched into the polystyrene back wall and saw that at a pinch I could climb up a pipe but I hadn’t sweated off enough mass for plastic drainpipe climbing. A long set of railings were in the basement and maybe I was strong enough to manhandle them outside and use as a ladder but I opted for one of two options. 1) sit and wait, or 2) break in through the kitchen window. 1) could take tenty-four hours, so I borrowed a large screwdriver and ... discovered the sliding window wasn’t locked! (it is now, in case a burglar on Methana is reading this) I pulled over a chair and climbed in head first. Sadly, the sink unit is plastic so I had to avoid slapping my weight on that, so ended up in a controlled forward roll onto the floor. Check photograph of the front of the apartments, and of the bike on the balcony and the Aegean Sea beyond. On Tuesday, Mariel took four of us on a tour of the island’s ancient towns and villages, including a stop at the foot of a dormant 700 m high volcano called Malia
Vgethi. The last recorded eruption was in 276 BC. The nearest village is Kameni Chora (burnt village) and the rocks all around are the dark red andesite and dacite solidified lava. We scrambled up a rocky path to the top, then through a small cave to sit in the vent itself. Magical. I couldn’t resist returning there on the bike. There was no need to wait for dry weather. The following day I placed a puncture kit, small first aid pouch, suntan lotion and a two litres of bottled water into a rucksack and set off uphill. The EU have spent our millions on improving road infrastructure all over Europe but it shows more in the near perfect cycling surfaces of the tarmac in Mediterranean countries like Greece. Every turn of the pedals sent me more away from the coast and uphill so that although my muscles burned and my lungs struggled I had terrific views on each hairpin bend. I met the occasional farm vehicle – sometimes cobbled together from part lawnmower, part half of a mini – enough to make me laugh, but there are new cars and vans too. The ascent meanders through the old village of Makrylongos. From the car
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tour I knew it had a sun shelter with a tap. It was while I had my perspiring head under that tap, that I heard a laugh. A Greek girl stood in a long red skirt and white blouse, as if she’d walked out of a 1950s National Geographic Magazine, and waved a stick. I thought I was to be beaten but a herd of goats bleated by and the girl strode after them, still laughing at the mad cyclist. A new lane bypasses the village but I chose to walk the bike uphill through the higgledy-piggledy cobbles and unmade track that passes for the high street. I said hello to a one-eyed horse and a group of dark-jacketed men playing cards. After this village I was on the lower slopes of Malia Vgethi, one of over thirty remains of volcanic vents and craters on the Methana peninsular. Mounting again it was only another twenty minutes of cycling before coming to where the road continued downwards and a footpath wound up 300 metres to the summit of the volcano.
The old Dutch bike had its own inbuilt circular lock but I added a cable lock, to --- ah what to secure it to? No handy street furniture that wasn’t broken so I had little choice but lock it to an olive tree. That’s a first for me! I could have cycled on – after all, I’d walked up the last stretch to climb inside the vent the previous day, but it didn’t seem right not to clamber into the volcanic vent again. So I did. Luckily the sparse population and apparent absence of bike thieves meant I could return to the tree then freewheel all the way to the pretty port of Vathy and enjoy a cold orange juice at a taverna. An hour later I was back at Limnisa. That round trip, in half a day, was the most exhilarating cycling round trips I’ve done. The drawback of cycling and writing in temperatures over 30oC is the copious perspiration and odious mosquitoes. I’ve never before been with a band of writers
Top: Methana’s volcanic scenery, looking towards Athens across the Aegean Sea Bottom Left: Makrylyngos, with sunshelter and tap Bottom Right: On a lane above Limnisa with volcanic mountains behind
that had a group aroma of citronella. We experienced three explosions during the week. 1) a can of coke in a fridge set too cold. 2) a cigarette lighter left in the sun, and 3) in checking out a puncture, the tyre blew apart when I pumped it up. The bikes are kept outside and I would place my helmet on the ground with my gloves inside. On Wednesday night, after a literary evening of readings and wine, I found only one glove. It’s possible a pine martin mistook it for food, or a hat. I wear cycling gloves to reduce the possibilities of RSI from bike vibrations, and if I fall it’s preferable for the glove to be shredded than my skin. These arguments apply to one glove as to a pair so I rode the rest of the days with only one. I became known as that mad one-glove Englishman. Did we see anything of the sad Greek recession? Not much on Methana. A vegan could live off the land. My ‘office’ was in the midst of fig trees bearing fruit. Not far away are nut trees, olives, pomegranates and other fruit. Philip told us that the church in Greece fed and clothed 200, 000 people out of a total of 11 million. Even so, we saw laughter and mobile phones chirping. Speaking of birdsong, that bike of Mariel’s sounded like a bird. Both wheels aren’t quite true so I was riding with the brakes engaging at every revolution. Good for muscle building and losing weight. 12 gears – a Batavus Champion. I wrote the blog pieces, and a couple of chapters of ARIA 3, found that its possible for this vegan to find enough to eat at Greek tavernas (baked aubergines, Greek Salad without the Feta, freshly baked bread dipped in olive oil), but most of all I’ve found new writer pals, and cycled around new ancient landscapes. The website of Limnisa, which can be used as a general retreat, not just by writers is http://www.limnisa.com. Geoff Nelder’s website is at http://geoffnelder.com
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England’s most northerly bicycle shop We’re at the northern end of NCN Route 68, Pennine Cycleway, midway on NCN Route 1, Coast and Castles South and near the Border Loop and Tweed Cycleway
Sales of new Bicycles Spares and Repairs Hire Bikes Accessories and Clothing 17a Bridge Street, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland TD15 1ES Tel/Fax: 01289 331476
HAMPSHIRE | CyCle Tours
AVAST THERE! PART Two
Stephen Dyster continued his voyage along the Shipwrights Way to Portsmouth …. and beyond
aving eaten well and slept comfortably, it was time for breakfast at No1 The Spain, Petersfield …. The heavy overnight rain gave way to a beautiful morning, with the promise of showers to come later in the day. It was the sort of morning, early in the cricket season when a leisurely breakfast might be followed by a stroll to the ground or a laze in the garden listening to Test Match Special. As my hostess, Jennifer Tarver, showed me round the plentiful fuel for the day, we chatted about cricket and the sad
demise of Christopher Martin-Jenkins. Then she was away to cook the full English, all local produce, which went down a treat. As I prepared to go, Allan, who claims just to be there to chat to the guests, asked me where I was planning to go. Having said that I intended to visit the market square to take a photo of the equestrian statue, he pointed out that it was none other than William III – “King Billy”. His association with Petersfield? “Well,” Allan explained, “It had stood in the garden of a house down the road for many years. It belonged to the Joliffe family, who had it
Above: Shipwrights End; Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
made in the seventeen-forties, probably to show their loyalty to the protestant succession. After a while, it seems they got fed-up with it and donated it to the town.” So, King Billy was my first objective. I found him lording it over the market stalls. The town was already buzzing with life and it was well after I should have been away. The Shipwrights Way leaves Petersfield along sections of cycle path and quite roads. Eventually one heads for the hills and climbs into the Downs at Buriton. As far as the village there is but one haul up, but don’t speed through Buriton. Apart
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HAMPSHIRE | CyCle Tours
Top Centre: King Billy at Petersfield market Right: Hayling Island huts
from the picturesque pond and the Church rising behind the tree lined banks, there are some informative information boards that tell a tale of shepherding, as one would expect, but also of hop washing with water from the pond and, surprisingly, major chalk quarrying in the hills which the Way climbs steeply, after skirting the pond. This was one of those sections where it was necessary to push the tourer laden with panniers for a three day trip with equipment for writing and downloading photos. The slope would have produced plenty of puffing even on an MTB. The climb passes between the chalk pits that once employed a vast number of people. Some elements have been preserved, but most has reverted to nature. One could spend a happy time exploring. The track ended at a road, with a rough track directly opposite, running up deceptively easily onto the flank of Butser Hill. Looking at the map, the road that was to be crossed was the road that one would join with later on. Several cyclists on road bikes crossed my path, and I was very much tempted to take the “low road”. Temptation was resisted; across the road it was – and a push up to the top of the deceptively easy track. After this, it was a rough ride on to Queen Elizabeth Country Park. All the other cyclists were on MTBs. It was not that the track was unmanageable, but it was certainly easier on the road with a touring bike. The main car park and facilities at the county park, are a little off the route, but there is a café and a car park. The route then climbed and followed forest tracks – all fine on a tourer, with the exception of a couple of slippery muddy sections. On the descent, the route made a sudden left turn to make a rough and steep descent to the road I had spurned earlier. I pushed the bike down to the road, or rather tried to hold it back as it attempted to roll more rapidly down than was advisable. The road was a touring cyclists dream. Light glinted through a canopy of trees that arched their boughs as if to salute the marriage of touring tyres and tarmac. There were patches on bluebells and occasional glimpses into deep deans. Nearby, and a short distance along the road is Saint Hubert’s Church, which has some fine medieval wall-paintings. With the glories of God and the landscape, the pedals turned with a lightness of heart that threatened to overcome common sense. Beware of this euphoria. As I followed a car to a sharp right hander, a peloton of riders came round the bend, one or two rode very wide, squeezing only narrowly past safely. Arriving in picturesque Rowlands Castle, one was struck by the number of cyclists sitting outside the café. It was that kind of lunchtime; the sun was shining and
everyone was enjoying the warmth. The village green is immensely wide and long. It reminded me of those in some other planned villages, where medieval lords attempted to develop towns with markets and fairs close to their castles – real estate development goes back a long way. More recently, George VI stood by the roadside to take the salute from troops heading to Normandy in 1944. All in all, Rowlands Castle is as good a spot to idle about as any. Whilst idly engaged in taking in the scene, I glanced at my bike and caught sight of a small mark on the sidewall of the tyre. Close examination showed a small split. I pushed on along the road to Havant, rather than taking the official route, though that soon re-joined my bee-line. Segregated off-road cycle lanes took the rider into Havant. Arriving at the railway station and finding a police officer pushing his bike over the footbridge, the whereabouts of a bike shop was soon ascertained and the
directions proved thoroughly inadequate. Fortunately, a lady with a bicycle pointed out where I had stepped astray. Hidden in a corner of a small precinct was Sivyer Cycles. Sitting by the door, straightening a wheel, sat the proprietor, whilst inside the proprietress was busy amongst stacks of bicycle necessaries. Here, not only was a new tyre found and fitted in a trice but I received the most fascinating insight into the relationships between different tyres, tubes and rims and how the fit varies according to manufacturer. This is exactly why even people with a vague knowledge of bike mechanics need real specialists. Long may they live and prosper. Crossing back over the footbridge, a couple of quiet roads took me to the start of a traffic free route with a good surface. This popular route – bicycles, mobility scooters, wheel-chairs and bodies not on wheels were all being propelled along a delightful stretch of the NCN, known as The Hayling Billy. Havant had not felt like a town next to the sea, though the proximity was clear on the map. The briny arrived suddenly, preceded a fraction before arrival by a sharp gust of wind bearing the tang of salt and smell of the sea. The sharp gusts continued. The pedalling got harder, the surface more variable, seaward glances showed choppy waters rising to become breakers. This theme continued when the road was joined at Hayling. The stretch to the ferry promised hard pedalling all the way to Portsmouth. Brightly coloured beach huts stood amongst the gorse. It would have been possible to follow a cycle route around the bay and avoid the short ferry trip. A student from Portsmouth told me this. He had set out on a short ride and had ended up in Havant – presumably the wind had blown him along. We stood our bikes in the neat
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HAMPSHIRE | CyCle Tours
bike rack in the bows of the passenger only ferry. The way into Portsmouth, he said, was easy to follow. It was, though the stiff wind required small ring to ensure steady progress. The association of the Royal Navy with Portsmouth is a long one. It is hard not to stop at the memorials, colleges,
Above: Isolated house in Waltham Forest Below: Bike rack in the bows of the Hayling ferry
churches, fortifications and, of course, the magnificent and massive Historic Dockyard. The latter marks the end of the Shipwrights Way, but should not end one’s time in this fascinating city. Having time only to look a t a few of the sites, I made a mental note to bring the family here some time. A day or two of exploring. It would be easy to use bikes, too, as there were numerous cycle facilities on and off road – seemingly well-signed. After taking a look at the Garrison Church and the fortifications that now only encircle a statue of Nelson, I set my prow to head inland. The Shipwrights Way had been fun, as well as interesting and, at times, challenging. Now, I had plans of my own. It had been suggested that one good way to head for Winchester would be to take the Gosport Ferry, follow the Gosport to Fareham Guided Bus Route (cyclists and busses only), pick up the Meon Valley Way and then follow the South Downs Way to Winchester. Next time, I thought. It would doubtless have been beautiful – the Meon Valley is – though one never knows quite how much rural loveliness one will see from a rail path. Time was pressing on, too, and, in any case, I wanted to see Bishop’s Waltham. Why Bishop’s Waltham? Well, it sounded interesting, has a ruined palace,
would doubtless have a café and is the chief settlement of Waltham Forest (not the London one). As it was, I was too late to visit the palace and all the cafes were proving so popular that there was not a seat to be had. The former hunting forest provided beautiful riding and a mixture of scenery. It was, largely, events in Waltham Forest that, in 1723 the Waltham Black Act was passed by Parliament – at one fell swoop and almost without debate adding fifty new capital offences to the statute book. The Waltham “Blacks” were forest men, often of some substance, who fought a running battle with the Forest officers over their “liberties”. By “liberties” they meant “rights” to use the forest. At that time notions of property and its use were changing. Traditionally much land, all over England, had been subject to different rights. In Forests this often meant rights to graze pigs or collect firewood or erect fences to keep the deer off crops or cut spindle wood. The newer notion was that ownership of land overruled all other rights and that private property should mean exactly that. By coincidence, whilst refreshing my memory on the Black Act, I read of one Edward Elliott, aged seventeen, who whilst hunting near Alice Holt (through which the Shipwrights Way runs) strayed
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HAMPSHIRE | CyCle Tours into Forest land whilst hunting a fawn to present to his girlfriend as a present. At the next assizes he was sent to the gallows. To get there I ignored advice and followed NCR 22 out to Cosham. A quick pick of the way through the houses that line the south face of Ports Down, brought a bird’s-eye view of the city and port. Then, in a torrential downpour I sped down into the rolling country that typifies this area of Hampshire. The names were those typical of Royal Forests; Little Forest, West Walk, Hoe Gate, West Lodge. The landscape was dotted with isolated hamlets and farms, typical of the old Forests. The larger villages had much modern housing. The shower that had recently blown over was soon followed by a line of comrades. The air was freshened to carry the scent of the woodland. Here and there stood halfhidden houses amongst the trees, many appeared to be old, but were tantalisingly hard to get a good look at. Stopping to photograph one building less well camouflaged than the others, I chatted with a lady out walking her dog. Despite both having been caught out by the secretive approach of the last sharp downpour, we agreed that the weather had been really rather good in the last few weeks. Pointing to an orchard full of blossom, she told me that there had not been such a display last year and that the whole orchard had produced by three apples fit to eat at the end of the summer. Bishop’s Waltham was close by. As expected it had all amenities, though I bought refreshments at a shop rather than a café. The streets are narrow and hemmed in by buildings of various ages. Were there time and better weather to allow investigation, it would appear to be a place that wears its history on its streets. Amongst the most remarkable buildings is that currently occupied by Barclay’s Bank. The remarkable exterior decoration is worth a small diversion if you are in the area. The Palace was closed, so it was off to Winchester for me. The last bishop to reside there, I am told, left, disguised as a
Above: Brand new cycle route near Winchester Below: Scrap
labourer, in a dung cart with Roundhead troopers hot on his heels. My journey was easier altogether. I had cycled into Winchester from the east before and had fixed upon trying the most direct route along a series of B roads. This was a mistake for the most part. The scenery was fine, the hills easy and the weather good. The trouble was that there was a continual stream of traffic clearly driven by people in a rush. Though I never felt in danger, nor did I ever feel completely safe. The great advantage of this route was that it dumped me on the A3090 close to the M3, a little to the south of Saint Catherine’s Hill. From here there are cycle paths, including a rather splendid and relatively new route over a former railway viaduct. Even better this lead to the B3335, which runs past The Hospital of Saint Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty. This is open to the public, though it is very much a living community accommodating twenty-five elderly men. There is a church, looking for all the world like a miniature version of the nearby cathedral, as well as a medieval hall and Tudor cloisters, all sitting in water meadows by the River Itchen. There is a fabulous view of the complex from Saint Catherine’s Hill – especially when the trees have lost their leaves. Mind you, there are fine views of most of Winchester from the summit of Saint Catherine’s Hill. The last bit of the run was peacefully along back roads, emerging in the Cathedral Close in glorious evening sunshine. A clergyman was wandering across the grass carrying a pile of papers secured by a red ribbon, a handful of people stood chatting by the buttresses, and I pedalled at a suitably clerical pace.
I stayed at the very conveniently located Wessex Hotel. The receptionist allowed me to stow my bike in a storage room and I had a room that looked across the graveyard to the bulk of one of most important cathedrals. As the sun dipped it picked out the saints and pinnacles, the contrast of dark and light against a heavenly blue sky that was modestly blushing pink as sunset came on the silent scene. To describe the last day of my ride and the return to Reading is, on the surface, easy. It was glorious. One of those days when the glory of the countryside and the beauty of the scenery, the rustling woods, the clear chalk streams, the rolling road and the hedge banks alive with purple, yellow and shimmering white. One of those days when stopping, even at the most tempting café or timber-framed house, felt undesirable; a day when the pedals were turning themselves and that one hoped would never end. Actually, there was a climb out of Winchester, to pick up the Itchen Valley and the charming road that offers glimpses of the clear water and swirling waterweeds, whilst linking a series of quiet villages on the way to New Alresford. The centre of New Alresford has little that is totally new about it. The broad main street that was made to accommodate the market is surrounded by trees and older buildings most of them little spoilt by their shop frontages. The hour was till early, or here would be an ideal café stop. Continuing along NCR23, the spirit of the day remained the same. Into my stride, I was just enjoying rapid progress through charming countryside on quiet roads. At Medstead the NCR
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HAMPSHIRE | CyCle Tours turns north and heads for Basingstoke. Whilst this did not fill my heart with joy, it was a notable waymark. Rolling happily through typically broken Wealden country, steadily climbing through bluebell woods and rushing down to peaceful valley cross roads, the road eventually reached a height of 200m a little south of Basingstoke. The route through Basingstoke is a credit to Sustrans and the Local Authority. It flows, has sensible crossing places and is well-signed. Though much of Basingstoke is new town, it has a long history. In a recent radio show Mark Steel spent time in the town. What caught my ear was the section of the show on the riots that occurred when the various forces of Temperance and Abstinence from alcohol decided to target the town. So disturbed was the Times by the response of many of the local inhabitants that it described the locals as savages. This Sunday the locals were cycling in the park, playing games and holding an enormous vintage transport fair and car-booter. Sweeping through on the well-designed route soon had me back out in the countryside, passing Stratfield Saye – home of the Duke of Wellington – and some prettily decorated churches. The highlight of this section of the ride was Calleva, where the Roman Walls are skirted on one side by the road; a most impressive section of the route. The final run on NCR23 into Reading was generally good. Two major annoyances; desertion of a perfectly quiet road to detour up a muddy, overgrown, rutted track that even carts would barely
contemplate. If Wilderbeeste stampede into waterholes in this part of the world, which they don’t, here would have been the place. Secondly was a hefty lump of metal on hinges that had been slung across the way by some well-meaning official. This horrible obstruction tested the resources when it came to carrying a solo through it. It would, with a heavy load be very difficult; with a child seat or trailer almost impossible. I suggest that the local
Above: Cycling by the wall, Calleva or Silchester Bottom Left: Beech Hill
authority sell it for scrap to supplement their income. The rest was excellent, especially a pleasant section through a modern business park. Having said that, reaching the town centre was a relief and negotiating the building work at the station in time to get the train home, even better This had been a fine run. I can return home and tell my northern friends that Hampshire is grand cycling territory.
InformatIon I stayed with: Jennifer and Allan Tarver, at 1 The
Spain, Petersfield, Hampshire GU32 3JZ Tel: 01730 263261, www.1thespain.com Information on the Shipwrights Way gathered from and downloaded at www.shipwrights.org.uk This includes a full set of route maps. Also, for more recommended routes, visit
www.winchester.gov.uk/roads-highways/ cycling-and-cycle-routes/ In Winchester I stayed at the Mercure Wessex Hotel. This is centrally situated with easy access to the city centre and the cathedral.http://www.mercure.com/
gb/hotel-6619-mercure-winchester-wessexhotel/index.shtml Relevant OS Maps 1:50000 175, 185, 196, 197 More general tourist information can be found at
www.easthants.gov.uk/tourism. There is also a tourist information point in Petersfield Library, in the Square.
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EXOTIC | HOLIDAYS
WHY CYCLE IN ASIA? Patricia Weismantel thinks there are too many reasons for two pages, but has a go at explaining some of them …
he strains of traditional Thai music reached us just as we turned left into a temple. Tucked off to the side was a small stage with a dozen youngsters holding, not the expected instruments, but puppets. Manoeuvring the hands of the stick puppets in a graceful dance the preteens moved delicately in sync to the music. We crept up to watch and tried not to be obtrusive, but with our helmets and colourful biking gear we were equally a curiosity as the kids were to us. When the music finished they rushed to show off their beautiful puppets, let us hold them and of course insisted that we take photos with them. This was another unplanned but precious moment that tends to happen frequently when cycling in Asia. Asia, the Orient, the Far East, conjures up many exotic images and it is a massive place full of contrasts and there is no one experience that can define it. When trying to tackle it by bicycle it can be daunting, so much is different, but that is exactly what makes it such a great place to explore on two wheels.
Whether touring on your own or in an organised group, sightseeing, training, or downhill mountain biking, there are all types of riding available in Asia. The choice is yours, but how to choose where to go? Start by looking when you can go. In many Asian countries the weather is best when it is bleakest in the United Kingdom. October to February is the high season for much of South East Asia and the sun is always shining. There are monsoon and typhoon seasons to watch out for and avoid in the Philippines and Vietnam, but even in the rainy season of countries like Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia the riding can be pleasant, and in fact refreshing. The rains are usually short and though hard for many Brits (newcomers to Asia) to put their heads around, the downpours aren’t cold. So you can keep on riding and you dry quickly when the shower is over. What can be too much of a good thing for some is the heat. Even in the “cool” season it is hot and humid in much of South East Asia. But by drinking lots of
Above: In the Mekong Delta Below: Going coconuts in Sri Lanka
water, riding in the early morning hours and taking frequent breaks in the shade, this can be managed by even those who think 16°C is a heatwave. The warm climes mean that people are out and about. The rice planters will stop their work to wave, kids are so excited to see you they are jumping up and down, the fruit picker will insist that you taste a red
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EXOTIC | HOLIDAYS
and hairy fruit called rambutan. Similarly, on our bicycles we aren’t sealed away behind glass and speeding by; we are visible and accessible, able to ride alongside Burmese students on single speed bikes eager to practice English on their way to school. “The friendly people” is the most frequent reply when you ask cyclists why they love to ride through Asia. And perhaps this is the number one reason to come. Dutch cyclist Linda rode solo from Bangkok to Beijing and never felt threatened, in fact she was often overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers. “I think being a woman may have been an advantage; men would be protective, as if I were their daughter and women just took me by the hand and led me to whatever I needed at the moment, be it food or accommodation.” In the six months that Linda was on the road, she found that many of her “vulnerable” moments turned into the most poignant interactions she had. “Those ended up being the memorable ones.” Carl Rubin from the USA heads out twice a year on his Bontrager mountain bike converted for off-road touring. Though he has many stories to tell, he is still moved by a local cycling group that found him having an early breakfast in the
Top Left: Linda goes dancing in China Top Right: Lunch in Thailand Bottom Left: Annie, with coconuts Bottom Right: East meets West
northern Philippines. “The whole town must have known I was there and word spread so that at 6:30 am there were about 15 riders gathered and ready to accompany me for about 30 kms on my route. I still don’t know how they found me, but It was great to swap biking stories with these guys and of course get information about the area. But I should have listened to their advice, when they said the road up ahead was rocky, they weren’t kidding!” The road conditions can vary vastly from country to country, but more often than not there are small country roads to take to avoid busy ones – but they may still be dirt. In Japan there are so many roads it is quite easy to find a quiet one. In Laos, where there are few roads, it is more difficult to find quite alternatives, but, luckily, traffic is still minimal there. In Mongolia no roads is the appeal! No matter where you are you will be sharing the road with all types of vehicles and often animals. Australian Paul Hamon and his wife challenged themselves to cycle every province of Thailand for their honeymoon. They succeeded in riding 8,500 km in just over five months, and for Hamon what made his tour so enjoyable was riding on a plethora “of quiet scenic roads... with the added plus of food at almost every intersection.”
Ah yes, the food. Exploring a culture through its food is a highlight of any trip abroad, but one of the pure joys of cycling is being able to eat guilt-free knowing you have just burned through thousands of calories. Asians love food, they talk about it constantly, and with fresh ingredients readily available the results are creative, and sometimes spicy, dishes that far surpass the corner Chinese takeaway. Language is never a problem for selfproclaimed foodie Annie Miniscloux who has cycled extensively in southern China, Bhutan and Vietnam. “I just look to see what other people are eating and if that doesn’t work I’ll head into the kitchen and find the ingredients that I want to eat. It’s no problem to do this in Asia, in France, where I come from, a chef would be appalled to have customers in the kitchen, but here they love it if you take an active interest in your meal.” “If all else fails it is pantomime time, but the result is usually good, and interesting. I have yet to miss out on a meal!” Whether you are flapping your arms to get an egg, singing karaoke, taking a shower from a bucket, or drinking coconut juice as a substitute for water, you are experiencing cycling in Asia and you’ll be back for more.
INFORMATION Patricia Weismantel is based in Bangkok and has been cycling throughout Asia for the last decade. She is the Product Manager for SpiceRoads Cycle Tours, where she puts her extensive knowledge of the region to use creating new cycle tours. You can read about Paul and Natt Hamon’s honeymoon here: http://everyprovincechallenge.com/ Join a group tour to Asia with SpiceRoads Cycle Tours: www.spiceroads.com
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sark | tours
Bromptons 2 : Cars 0 Could there be a car-free paradise in the UK? Roger Osborn offers salvation ….
Above: Riding high – La Coupee Right: Loaded Bromptons
y wife and I have always loved visiting small islands and have travelled to Lundy and the Isles of Scilly on previous holidays. Where next we thought? Then last year the latest series of Island Parish was shown on the TV, set on Sark, the fourth smallest of the Channel Islands nestling in the English Channel, just of the Normandy Coast. The island is famous for being the last feudal state in Europe and for having no cars, the latter point making it sound ideal for two cyclists - so off we went to research the Internet (as you do in this day and age) and to work out logistics. It started well – can we get there without flying? (I choose not to fly due to environmental concerns). Yes, we can catch a ferry from Poole to Guernsey then a smaller ferry from Guernsey to Sark. Would there be somewhere to stay within our budget? Yes, we found a lovely little one-bedroomed cottage. Can we take the bikes? Errr no, we can book them on the Condor ferry to Guernsey, but for onward travel to Sark they would need to be booked as cargo on
the freight boat (if space allowed) and the cost would be prohibitive. Time for a re-think; because Sark is so cycle friendly, it boasts two cycle hire shops
- not bad for a population of just 600; but there is nothing like riding your own bike. So, when I enquired if folding bikes could be taken on the ferry, a positive answer
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sark | tours was received. They could, as long as each “package” was fully covered and weighed no more than 25kgs each. Perfect. So the Bromptons it was to be. The next issue was how to carry enough luggage for two people for one week, not forgetting wet suits as we had heard of the famous Venus Pool. I had recently purchased a new Brompton touring pannier (as the one I had been using for work was on its last legs) and also a new “recycled” Brompton bag from Carradice, at the London Bike Show. Still not quite enough space. Then with incredible timing Cycling World fell through my letter box with an article in which Mark Jacobson tours with his Brompton - on his rear rack was a large bag of the type we use when wild swimming. Fortunately one of our Bromptons had a rear rack and by using some karabiners and bungies (where would we be without those?) I could secure the bag safely when filled to capacity. So, one Friday afternoon, in April, we set off for Poole where we would stay overnight in a Premier Inn, ready for a very early start and the first ferry to Guernsey. After an early night we loaded up the Bromptons in the dark for the two mile trip to the ferry. It was not an ideal time to find out that the front dynamo light on my Brompton didn’t work (of course it had done when I checked it the day before). Anyway, the battery lights on my wife’s Brompton and my rear light were fine, so we set off with my wife in front and me with my one working light at the rear. The Brompton felt unsteady to begin with due to the heavy load on the back, but I soon got used to it. We arrived at the dockside in the dawn and were assisted very efficiently by the Condor Ferry Staff. We got into our lane ready to board and were joined by a couple on electric bikes going over to Guernsey for the day, and a very fit looking roadie on his aero-dynamic Cervélo, who was planning to race a ten mile time trial, also on Guernsey. We left Poole Harbour in early sunshine and flat seas but alas this wasn’t to last. Let’s just say that the crossing was rough - very rough. One of the ferry employees was kept busy handing out sick bags and a tannoy announcement requested that we use the bags rather than the toilets. We had always planned to go for a ride around Guernsey before our 4pm boat to Sark, but on arrival the heavens had opened and so the decision was made to fold, cover and leave the bikes and bags at the handy Sark Ferry Company Left Luggage Portacabin. We then explored St Peter Port on foot. The wind and rain hadn’t ceased by the time we caught the small boat to Sark and so the crossing was a rollercoaster ride. On arrival at Maseline Harbour on Sark, we had the option of unfolding the bikes and riding to our cottage, or walking and
Top: Enter the Dragon – Avenue Cycles Bottom: Bike to School Day – Everyday
having our luggage delivered by tractor. Although there are no cars on Sark, there are plenty of tractors used for both general transportation and farming. We chose to walk up the steep hill to the main street and were soon over-taken by the “toast rack”, the trailer that carries people up the hill towed by tractor. Half way up I wish we had gone for that option! Quickly locating our cottage, we were shown around our home for the week by Pat who, along with her husband Pete, owns the smallholding with separate converted stable where we were staying. We were woken early the following morning by the loudest dawn chorus I have ever heard, including a bird that sounded just like an old fashioned telephone ringing. By this time the rain had stopped and turned into a beautiful day. It was great to see young and old getting around by bicycle with no hi-vis and
mostly without helmets. The roads, whilst not tarmacked, were adequate for the small Brompton wheels and, now luggage-free, we were soon enjoying the freedom of the lanes and exchanging happy hellos with the locals. You can’t really get lost on Sark as the island is only three miles long by one and a half miles wide and well signed at each junction. The main street on the island is called The Avenue and this is where most of the shops are located, including one of the cycle hire shops and a French Boulangerie which sold the most lovely fresh bread, pastries and tarts – it soon became the first stop of the day at 7am, and quite often in the afternoon, too. On the first morning I locked the Brompton up while I went inside, but soon realised this was pointless, as even if stolen the bike cannot exactly be taken far – in fact the only bike I saw locked all
www.cyclingworldmag.com | Cycling World 35
sark | tours week was a Freego electric. We later found out that it’s not uncommon for a bike to be “borrowed” to get home from the pub and the legal owner to find it in a hedge the next day. Whilst in the Sark Visitor Centre, I happened to see old unused bicycle licenses for sale and when I enquired about these, discovered that all bicycles must display a current license – fortunately I also discovered that the island only has a parttime Police Constable and he never saw our unlicensed bicycles – the island has a two cell jail. Perfect. We had booked a coasteering trip with Adventure Sark, a company based on the island, offering kayaking, coasteering and archery amongst other things; and so with Budgie, Rosalie, Nick and Sam (who all lived on the island), we set off on our bikes for a half day jumping off cliffs, swimming along the coastline and exploring caves along the way. We had an amazing time in the water including one hairy moment when three rolling waves washed in rapid succession through a cave we had just entered. We paused for refreshments on a beach a hundred metres below the narrow causeway, La Coupée, which links Sark with Little Sark – the beach being only accessible via the sea. Later in the week we took the Bromptons over the ninety-one metre long causeway, having to push up and down the rickety slope either side, designed I assume to stop bikes crossing at speed - it wasn’t until World War 2 that German POW’s built rails either side. A sign warned us not to cycle across or lean our bikes against the railings in case they slipped and fell the hundred metre drop into the sea. It was on this journey to Little Sark that we discovered The Venus Pool, made famous by Victorian artist, William Toplis; it is the subject of one of his many paintings of Sark. He moved to the island in 1883. After carefully studying the tide times in the Visitor Centre and having
taken a sneaky peek in a local book of rocks and cave formations for clues on how to find the Pool (it is only uncovered for hours either side of low tide and not visible at all from above), we scrambled down and around the cliff - it was more than worth the effort when we suddenly came across the pool and quickly changed into our wet suits, plunging into the crystal clear, icy water. Unfortunately due to recent rock falls, the depth of the pool has been reduced considerably from 18 feet to 6 feet. The night times on Sark are very dark and the island was the world’s first Dark Sky Island.With no street lights you need to remember to carry a torch if you are out on foot or have good bike lights if out after dark.
Above: Main Street, Sark – The Avenue Middle: Secretive Venus Pool Left: Cyclists Dismount?” Not likely
It was a fantastic sight to see all the children’s bicycles in the bike park at the New Island Hall which houses the school on the island. Although only a small island, we found plenty to keep us busy for a week and whilst some of the roads are not suitable for your average road bike (most people ride hybrids), the Bromptons coped admirably. As long as you are not a mile-eater, but prefer pottering around, then visit, hire a bike and revel in the outstanding scenery, tranquillity, bird song and friendliness – to cyclists and cycles - of the island of Sark. PS. On our return to Guernsey the weather could not have been different than a week before and we rode to lovely L’Ancresse Bay on the North of the island in beautiful weather – sunny and warm. We followed our noses and did not get lost, although there is a lack of road signs outside of the major towns.
36 Cycling World | www.cyclingworldmag.com
Kayaking also available
Step back in time w : www.adventuresark.com
Unspoilt and stunningly beautiful, the perfect hideaway from the modern world To find out more call 01481 832345
www.sark.co.uk Le Hurel Pippa & Ben Dawes
07911 718 999
firstname.lastname@example.org Le Hurel is located on the East coast of Sark, close to Greve de la Ville bay and beautiful coastal paths. It is no more than ten minutes from ‘The Avenue’ for shopping and all restaurants and bars are also within convenient walking or cycling distance. Open all year round, Le Hurel can accommodate Clos de Menage Country House is situated within easy reach of all Sark’s unspoilt bays and beaches. It is a family-run guesthouse that can accommodate up to 10 people and is open all year round. The master bedroom has a king-sized four-poster bed and en suite bathroom. The other 3 bedrooms are
2 people. This ground floor apartment has a double bed, open-plan kitchen and separate shower room. It has its own private entrance and the porch area has a dining table, chairs and a sofa - perfect for relaxing in the evening sun and enjoying the surrounding garden and wildlife. Everything from beach towels to linen is provided.
available as single, twin, double or family rooms. The lounge has an open fireplace, TV/DVD, extensive library, games and puzzles - there is even a piano for your enjoyment! Guests may relax in secluded gardens with rare and sub-tropical plants, a hammock, outdoor seating and a large trampoline!
Clos de Menage Country House Hillary & David Curtis
Reviews The Bluffer’s Guide to Cycling Rob Ainsley | Thomas Drewry | 9781909365407 | 119 Pages £6.99
ob Ainsley will, probably, already be well known to readers of Cycling World, as author of “50 Quirky Bike Rides” which we have previously reviewed. Rob has cycled extensively in Britain as well as in some thirty other countries, writes for the CTC Magazine “Cycle” and “Cycling Plus” magazine. He has his own cycling blog (www. realcycling.co.uk) as well as a Twitter page, so is highly qualified to produce a “Bluffer’s Guide.” The last sentence is meant by no means disparagingly, for when I first discovered the “Bluffer’s” series some years ago I instantly took to the style of these books – a mixture of clever tongue-in-cheek humour, nevertheless coupled with essential facts… and the cycling one is no exception. Opening with a comment on Cycling and Bluffing, the book goes on to cover, Cycling Tribes, Buying a Bike, Bits and Bolts, Hot Topics, Everyday Riding, On Road and Track, Pedalling People, Lies Damn Lies, and… then finishes with a chapter entitled The Wheels of Justice, covering in an amusing way what is and is not legal to do on a bike. I found the discussion on the pros and
cons of cycling helmets, informed well presented and logical. I found the discussion on whether cyclist should or should not be compelled to pay “Road Tax” factual, correct and consider it would be invaluable when faced with a stubborn, ill-informed anti-cyclist. In my opinion this section alone justifies the price of the book. I can do nothing better than reiterate some other reviewer’s comments to do justice to this excellent little book. Jack Thurston wrote, “Funnier than anything Lance Armstrong ever wrote. And certainly much truer.” Dan Joyce, Editor of Cycle, wrote, “Cycling is a beautifully simple activity that enthusiasts love to overcomplicate. Rob Ainsley redresses the balance.” A highly recommended little book, which should amuse as well as inform any reader. Gerry Frisby, May 2013
World Cycling Stripped Bare Sean Conway |Mortimer Lion Publishing | ISBN 9780957449701 | 125 pages
have to say I found this book with its whimsical style and self-mocking humour an absolute pleasure to read. As Sean (a pro photographer) puts it, “I was unhappy in my job, my girlfriend had dumped me and I had itchy feet … then one day, as I lay in the bath, I began to think, to dream what it would be like to cycle round the world…” And so… he set off to try to make it happen despite having little cycling experience. His struggle to achieve fitness is told with wit and then his tale moves on to cover in outline how he attracted sponsorship, planned his route, selected his equipment, decided on the clothing he would need, as well as making crucial decisions on the spares he would carry. Basically, he boldly opted to travel light (very light in fact), sleeping wherever he could find that would provide shelter…and he found it in some surprising places!
There are no lengthy descriptions of his travels in this book and it is certainly not an “every turn of the pedals” tome, but, as a good raconteur does, Sean tells of highlights and pitfalls en route, and some of the episodes described had me laughing out loud. Here’s just one; “The pedal came off the shaft in the centre of a town in Malaysia. I swerved to the right, nearly running over a pedestrian. I stood there for five minutes trying to bash the pedal back on with a brick ... before looking up, and right in front of me, all big and bright was the biggest bike shop I had seen in weeks!” While you probably don’t need this book, it’s an excellent read, and on that basis I’d recommend it. Gerry Frisby
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Tour de France 100 Richard Moore | Bloomsbury | ISBN 9781408170960 | 224 pages | £30.00
ith text by Richard Moore, journalist, author of cycling books such as “In Search of Robert Millar,” this very large format book is subtitled, “ A Photographic History of Cycling’s Most Iconic Race” and covers the history of the Tour’s 110 years. While I, and many amongst Cycling World’s readership, will have come across quite a lot of the historic and contemporary pictures selected before, this work gathers them together in just one place and the text sets events into context beautifully. The book itself is broken into 12 sections, opening with the early periods 1903 – 14, 1919 –1929, 1930 –1947, 1948 –52, 1953 – 60, 1961 – 68, 1969 – 77, 1978 –85, 1986 – 90, 1991 –98, 1999 – 2005 and ending with the period 2006 –2012. While this might seem an unusual way to divide up a book, it is actually very logical, as it has been chosen to showcase events relevant to a particular Champion and his rival’s time at the top of the sport. The pictures cover all the Duels of the Champions including Bartali and
Coppi, Mercxx as well as a fair amount of the Tour Riders’ lives and days on the road. For those who do not know much about the Tour’s early years the book will be a revelation, for the photographs capture exhausted grimy men burdened with spare tyres, water bottles, food and spare clothing riding, and in some cases pushing, heavy single speed bikes on roads not much more than crushed flint farm tracks over some of France’s most severe mountains. From the outset the race was designed to be an endurance test and Desgrange, the race’s founder deliberately made it so, for his original idea was that only one man, the Best of the Best would finish in Paris. The skulduggery, cheating, suicides and even murders connected with the Tour are all covered. Drug taking simply to survive was rife in those days and the cocktail of stimulants routinely used by the « forçats de la route » (The Convicts of the Roads) as these men called themselves is truly frightening.
As the book is up to date, Armstrong’s rise, exposure as a cheat and overdue fall are covered in a very honest manner, much to the author’s credit. I feel this book indeed does do “exactly what it says on the packet”; and does it very well. If I were looking to buy only one book on the Tour this one would truly be it. Gerry Frisby, May 2013
Classic Cycle Routes of Europe Werner Muller-Schell | Bloomsbury | ISBN9781408157527 | 180 Pages | £16.99
his larger format paperback is printed on high quality, semi-glossy paper, is illustrated with well chosen, specially commissioned photographs by cycling photographer Hennes Roth and the articles on each route are backed up with good road and elevation maps as well as safety notes. A comprehensive index is included at the end of the book. The author, Werner Muller-Schell is both an experienced cyclist and a cycling journalist and contributor to Procycling Magazine. With such a background, as you might expect, his style of writing is lean, clear, factual, and to the point. That said the facts are fleshed out with the history of the race, race results and relevant anecdotes. The stated aim of Werner’s work is “to encourage riders to follow in the tracks of the great riders over 25 of Europe’s most famous road cycling routes.” To this end he begins by offering practical advice on preparation, including winter fitness building, technique, methods of handling long cobbled stretches of pave, mountain cycling/descending, necessary clothing, bike maintenance and selection of kit. Thereafter he outlines the Classic Cycle
Races by category and moves onto more detailed descriptions of “Spring Sorties” “Summer Specials” “Autumn Adventures” and a catch-all section entitled simply “More Classics” which includes Paris-Brussels, Germany’s Oldest Classic, France’s South Western Cycling Festival, Bordeaux-Paris, ParisBrest-Paris, a special ride in memory of Fausto Coppi, an Alpine Brevet and and event round Sweden’s second largest lake. To me, having spent five winters in Mallorca however, there is one omission – no mention is made of the Vuelta a Mallorca – though Werner does include the Trofeo Deia – Mallorca’s Costal event which, while it might start off quite gently, does include some pretty hefty climbing in the north of the island. So who might be interested in this book? Obviously it is recommended for anyone with an interest in following such routes, but as gardeners like to pore over seed catalogues of a winter’s evening and hill walkers can be found lying on their lounge floors studying large scale maps of the back country throughout the colder evenings
for inspiration, I could see this book serving a similar purpose to fuel touring cyclists’ dreams. Gerry Frisby, April 2013
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12 Months in the Saddle John Deering and Phil Ashley | Carlton | ISBN 9781780972947 | 224 Pages | £25.00
ohn Deering served his time with The Linda McCartney Pro Cycling Team, has written a previous best selling cycling book, “Team on the Run” and is a regular contributor to various cycling publications including Pro Cycling. His long-term friend, Phil Ashley, is a well-known professional photographer, so, naturally enough, John does the words and Phil does the pictures. To the book itself – perhaps best described by John; “This is our story of 12 months in the saddle. Well to be more accurate, one or two days a month in the saddle for 12 months, but that didn’t sound quite so snappy.” It was quite a twelve months though, for in that time they managed a Coast to Coast, The South Downs Way, Belgium’s Tour of Flanders, a Paris Roubaix, The Fred Witton Challenge in the Lake District, Wales’ Dragon Ride, The Bealach na Ba, a night time ride round London covering locations featured on a Monopoly Board, France’s feared Mount Ventoux, the period piece L’Eroica in Italy, The Exmoor Beast and finally the West Highland Way. This last trip was in a severe snowstorm. “12 Months In The Saddle” is no everyturn-of the pedals epic. Rather the book is written in a jokey, matey style - as only
two good friends can do - and does feature some present tense, stream-of-consciousness sections which some will love and others find a little irritating. In the main this does not detract overmuch from the excellent content and the sheer level of achievement reached by John and Phil over their year. The book is coffee table size and the photographs are well chosen, well printed, generally excellent and really do capture the atmosphere of each ride. Grain has been used creatively at times to enhance the viewer’s experience and convey the sense of being there with the authors. The book will probably most appeal to those under a certain age of an adventurous
turn of mind and, as such, has much to recommend it. Gerry Frisby
Everyday Bicycling Elly Blue| Microcosm | ISBN9781621067252 | 127 Pages | £7.99
he authoress describes herself as “a writer and bicycle activist living in Portland, Oregon” and her work has appeared in Grist, Bitch Magazine, Bike Portland, Momentum and Reclaim. Now, while the book itself is a plainly bound, smaller format softback, subtitled “How to ride a bike for Transportation (whatever your lifestyle), it is actually full of useful information aimed at the beginning or returning utility cyclist. Its chapters cover the basics of bike riding, how to fit cycling into your lifestyle with advice on dress for work, how to get hold of an appropriate bike and to look after it, methods of load carrying, family cycling and how to promote cycling and cycleways. Each chapter is well organised and written in an easy-to-read-style, which I actually found very appealing. Though the book is written from a predominantly American female viewpoint, I’d say, so long as you remember that we drive and ride on the opposite side of the road, there is universal mileage in Elly’s book…and a lot of it.
Back in the early 1970s I read Richard Ballantyne’s first book on cycling which had a similar “can-do” style, and it inspired me to become a serious lifetime cyclist – this book does not include all the mechanical and technical information presented in Ballantyne’s seminal work – but I believe it could inspire in the same way. While I cannot see many regular Cycling World readers needing such a book personally – it could make a useful gift for any friend just starting or even just exploring the idea of taking up cycling. It would probably provide the final push to ensure such a friend joined the ranks of “The Converted” - and stayed there. On that basis I would recommend this book. Gerry Frisby
40 Cycling World | www.cyclingworldmag.com
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products & technical
making the Leap: Frog Bikes Frog 62 LightWeight kiD’s Bike £260 Michael Stenning and son Joshua hopped aboard their Frog 62 and had a really enjoyable time on a high quality and value for money machine.
espite the dominance and tumbling prices of aluminium, little legs are generally expected to propel overburdened dual suspension “mountain bikes” heavy enough to give grown adults hernias. Until recently, those wanting children’s lightweights had to look to the continent, or, in some cases, go bespoke. Fortunately a few enlightened small-scale British marques have been introducing good quality, scaled down, affordable models that will keep their looks and their value come resale or passed on to younger siblings. Frog Bikes is owned and run by a cycling family in sunny Surrey offering a comprehensive range for tots to teens.
Frameset Most kids’ bikes tend to size according to generic age bands and are either emblazoned with macho tour de galaxy stickers or assume young girls want their frames pollinated. Frog employs a refreshingly different approach-numbers in place of model names denote inside leg and there’s a
Red Frog 62
choice of attractive, timeless and pleasingly gender-neutral colours. Therefore, howls of protest are less probable should Jake inherit from Jasmine, or vice versa. Beneath the well-applied powder coating lies a twelve inch 6061 plain gauge aluminium chassis with classic crosscountry, suspension corrected mountain bike geometry. 6061 is much lighter than comparably priced Cro-molys, delivering a more responsive ride without the jackhammer persona of 7005. Plain gauge tubing helps keep costs down but has some practical advantages too, most notably greater resistance to denting and similar accidental damage than double butted versions. With this in mind, its reassuring to find a replaceable derailleur hanger. These are engineered to yield long before the frame or derailleur does and Frog tells me, replacements are readily available from stock, leaving tears firmly at the tumble. Built and finished in the Far East with a five-year warrantee, TIG welds boast a characteristically neat, industrial flavour, while contributing to the frame’s overall rigidity. Some will bemoan a rear facing collar slot, which can be a conduit for watery ingress thrown up by the rear wheel. Others; a lack of gusseting where head and down tubes meet but these are minor points on a virtuoso machine for all seasons and most reasons. I applaud the rear triangle’s authentic
135mm mountain bike spacing and 1/18th head tube, enabling plentiful options when replacing or upgrading components. The former facilitates singlespeed conversion should desire or circumstances dictate, although while those beefy vertical ends ensure effortless wheel location and extraction, achieving good chain tension in one cog guise can prove tricky. These are drilled for full-length mudguard and carrier fittings, although the seat stays don’t reciprocate, so it’s P-clips or three point fixings. This is not something I’d lose any sleep over since this age group shouldn’t be hauling the proverbial kitchen sink anyhow. Cantilever posts and simple cable runs are in stark contrast to the obligatory disc mounts and guitar string configurations but yet another example of forethought and function presiding over fashion. Adding discs might nominally improve Neat TIG welds
42 Cycling World | www.cyclingworldmag.com
products & technical
7 speed Shimano block
Replacable dropouts and Shimano mech
clearances (although these are ample for 1.75 tyres and full length guards, 1.95 using post mounted types) but this would either mean hiking the price, or potentially more damning compromise elsewhere. Lets’ not lose sight of the fact that well-honed cantilevers/linear pulls will stop strapping six foot, thirteen stone adults on the proverbial sixpence, let alone their offspring! Bottle bosses are limited to one but this makes best use of the compact main triangle, although I’d be inclined towards mounting a second clip on extension at the seat tube and using two compact side entry cages such as Lezyne’s flow SL for longer, summer outings. Dirt calls for hydration packs though, since bottles are right in the firing line of bovine and other animal faeces. Quality control is generally excellent these days but its always reassuring to find properly reamed seat tubes and chased threads. The former is 27.2, which means a bewildering array of choice should young protégé’s fancy something suspension, or even carbon fibre later on. Aluminium forks are comparatively rare these days and not renown for their compliance but a gentle rake, serves to temper their harsher persona, especially sans asphalt. Welds and detailing are very neat, especially the ends, which sport those obligatory lawyers’ lips to prevent the wheel making a bid for freedom come the first bump with a loose skewer. However, these are fairly subtle, so won’t frustrate intentional removal.
transmission A simple seven-speed configuration is perfect for derailleur newbies and more than adequate for experienced pilots too, so long as we’re talking sensible ratios. Getting these trail and tarmac friendly is no mean feat but Frog have managed this courtesy of a 36 tooth ring and 14-28 cassette, translating into a fully useable, knee friendly range between 30.9 and 61.9 inches. Shimano’s “Tourney” series requires little introduction but, for the uninitiated, it’s an extremely cheap, yet very cheerful groupset that costs pennies to replace when it wears out, or meets with an untimely
demise. Sadly, this is more probable given that the small wheels place the cage perilously low and therefore particularly vulnerable to tree roots, rocks, brambles etc. Factor some youthful enthusiasm and unintentional neglect into the equation, the benefits of more prestigious mechs quickly diminish. Like for like replacements give change from ten quid but I suspect many will recycle a worn unit from the spares bin. The gears are commanded by the groupsets neat little twist grip, which might contain oodles of plastic but blessed is with a light, yet positive action that seems tolerant of occasional learner abuse, such as shifting at standstill. Most importantly, it means eyes needn’t be distracted or fingers moved from the brakes. Inboard location and nominal protrusions serve to accentuate its service life. A quick word about the crankset; it’s an unbranded affair with a steel ring and 140mm alloy arms dressed in a colour coordinated and, moreover, very durable powder coated finish. 9/16th pedal threads ensure it accepts adult pedals, should junior fancy upgrading to clips n’ straps or clipless. A non-replicable ring means the cranks’ bin fodder once traces of hooking/other wear become apparent but this won’t be anytime soon, so long as chains and general maintenance aren’t neglected. It sits aboard a sealed, square taper bottom bracket via recessed 8mm Allen bolt, which needs to be kept snug to prevent steel axles mauling the soft alloy. Unbranded perhaps but it turns smoothly enough and should remain thus for several thousand miles provided Twist grip gear changers
jet-washing or bog snorkelling are given a wide berth. OEM chains tend to be a little agricultural too, although, with light lube, ours seemed more tarnish resistant than we were expecting and is inexpensively upgraded when the time comes.
Braking Good stoppers allow us to ride faster for longer but were something of a pipe dream for kids until brands such as Tektro came along, offering powerful progressive braking with compassionate pricing. In this instance, forged aluminium (836AL) linear pull arms are commanded by Tektro’s light action four finger JL510-TS, junior levers. Aside from being a very harmonious, tactile paring, the latter enjoys plenty of adjustment courtesy of 1.5mm screws, bringing them closer, or indeed further from the handlebars according to rider reach. Pads are aligned/replaced using a 5mm Allen head and blissfully easy to toe-in-we had some very minor squeal on our maiden voyage but was silenced in a matter of seconds. Anodising and finish generally seems commendable, although giving the noodles a quick oily rag wipe-over will keep tarnish from rearing its ugly head.
WheeLs Stock, machine built wheels have lost their once dire repute in recent years and these continue the carefully considered theme, enhancing the bike’s sprightly persona, while being able to withstand more spirited antics. The rims are double-wall anodised aluminium with machined sidewalls, keeping weight, strength and braking well proportioned. Black spokes laced two cross unite with colour coordinated mid flange Quando hubs. Hardly a household name, Quando is an emergent Chinese brand broadly on terms with Joytec. Seals are basic and would benefit from liberal helpings of silicone grease to prevent deep puddles and more enthusiastic exploration from sneaking ruinously inside but are a big improvement upon those usually specified. Something of a culture shock to those folks weaned
www.cyclingworldmag.com | Cycling World 43
products & technical we take for grated but its nice to find them standard issue on junior models. Admittedly, this one’s a little agricultural and the burnished dun finish seems more susceptible to scratching than sibling components. However, protégé’s would really have to be going some to break it and being such a popular diameter there’s a bewildering array of suspended and static alternatives.
riDe/hanDLing From the first few pedal strokes, Frog’s 62 has induced an ear-to-ear grin with its spirited, yet dependable persona. Fourteen-inch chainstays sound brutally short and encourage brisk acceleration, particularly on the climbs . With his full four stone dancing on the pedals, Joshua couldn’t detect any obvious signs of wibble from the bottom bracket shell. Cunningly disguised as a responsible adult, I dialled in some dual sided SPD pedals, swung my leg over the top tube and had a quick scoot round the block. Taking my size, weight and quizzical looks from passers-by into account, surprisingly little power sapping flex was detectable from the bottom bracket shell. Having shelved his fear of derailleur systems, son (and er, father) unanimously agree shifts are quick and predictable even under provocation. However, Joshua commented that he felt a little stretched, leading to mild shoulder discomfort after forty-five minutes. Adding a small four point carrier and ten litre panniers with a five-kilo cargo hasn’t presented any heel clearance hassles while the moderate overall wheelbase and gentle fork rake assists like a knowing elder when tired limbs give way to flagging concentration. Make no mistake, the front end’s pretty nimble thanks to stiff cockpit and braking feedback with wide bars having the final say when its time to whip round a gaping pothole or clearing trail debris. For our final tarmac test, it was time for some hills. At 9.8 kilos, low overall mass cantered very quickly up to speed and
Front hub with basic seals
on Shimano’s silent clutch system, the freehub emits a very audible, yet strangely reassuring tick. Shapely quick release skewers have a smooth, progressive cam action and are easily operated by smaller digits, without being so compliant that a jealous “friend” or sly competitor might successfully tamper with them unnoticed.
Frog OEM tyre
That said; for general riding, I would replace quick releases for Allen bolts to dissuade opportunist theft. Tyres are another area where manufacturers love to cut corners but thankfully Frog has opted for some semi slick 1.75 Kenda. Inflated to a maximum 70psi, these deliver a brisk, magic carpet ride across asphalt, yet remain surprisingly compliant over dirt roads and dry trails. Devoid of puncture preventative belts, there’s been no hint of the dreaded hiss in several weeks, although maybe Joshua’s just been lucky enough not to meet that nail bearing his name. General consensus suggests we’d happily run these into the ground but keep some thorn resistant tubes and a second set of mud specific rubber handy for mountain bike/cross meets or more spirited green-laning.
Finishing kit Keeping things in-house ensures cost savings can be passed to the consumer,
while theoretically retaining much greater quality control. However, this wasn’t without compromise. Starting at the cockpit, a very sharp looking four bolt 80mm Ahead stem with ten degree rise holds sensibly proportioned 52cm straight bars in a vice like grip. Reassuringly stiff, these accentuate the machine’s engaging persona, responding quickly to split second swerves around potholes, yet slipping through tighter gaps without sharp intakes of breath. However, the frame’s relatively aggressive eighteen-inch top tube means children blessed with shorter torsos may benefit from substituting the original for a 60cm, reinstating it as growth dictates. Crate fresh, we’d instate a stubby set of bar ends for improved climbing prowess and alternative hand positions too. Similarly, the dual density low profile grips numbed trail buzz and inspired confidence in most contexts but easily exchanged for something more specialist. Plastic bodied pedals evoke comparable sentiments, secure enough for sustaining decent cadences in most soft-soled footwear, without bruising shins on calves should slippage intrude. Bearings aren’t too bad either so on balance we’d get our money’s worth, upgrading to something dual sided and clipless in the fullness of time. Even amongst very young riders, saddle comfort is a hotly debated issue that; leaving science aside, comes down to personal ergonomics and preference. By my reckoning, Frog have tried bridging the gender-gap by offering a broader base, moderate nose and padding density. Joshua has been pleasantly indifferent, commenting that the sturdy leatherette cover allows easy changes in position without irksome surfing, moderate rainfall just beads and cascades to the floor, so the wet bottom blues shouldn’t develop into a wearisome anthem. Micro adjust seatposts are something
44 Cycling World | www.cyclingworldmag.com
products & technical having gained complete confidence with the simple twist grip, Joshua was clicking down in tune with the ascent. Summit reached and breath reclaimed, some warp speed descending was on the cards. Coursing down through the taller ratios, it was a matter of moments before we were hurtling along at a brisk twenty-three mph, the windblast reducing conversation to a series of short whoops and nods. Great modulation and feel from the right lever gave Joshua complete confidence to let rip, sweeping effortlessly through the bends. Impeccably behaved, even out of the saddle, provocatively shaking the bars, the 62 held its line and couldn’t be persuaded to turn bandit. These characteristics translate perfectly trailside. Low overall mass coupled with sensible diameter tubing mean its’ easy to lift and carry (although stamina obviously varies from child to child) over obstacles/ shorter distances- particularly helpful in cross racing. Moderate down tubes don’t attract heft inducing gloop nearly so readily and a sensibly lofty bottom bracket shell hovers comfortably above most common woodland protrusions, remaining conducive to slow speed dab- downs without sacrificing slow speed stability. Swapping the stock rubber for narrower 1.75 small block treads meant comparatively greater efficiency over more aggressive knobblies (which often clog to the point of being slick in a matter of ten, maybe fifteen minutes). Wheels have remained true, evenly tensioned and trouble free throughout but stockier children with less compassionate riding styles might report differently.
VerDiCt Frog’s 62 has never ceased to amaze us for all the right reasons. Morphing effortlessly between trailblazer and civilised packhorse, despite some quiet reservations concerning the non-ferrous fork; this is an all terrain bike in the classically accepted sense. In these austere times, £260 might sound extravagant (by my own admission, even with a properly deployed, stout lock, I’d be nervous of it being ridden to school). However, while its possible to build some fantastic junior steeds from scrap frames, leftover paint and parts, simple economics dictate the amount of labour involved (even at a modest £10ph) would far outstrip the Frog’s asking price. This reflects sensible investment in frame and wheelset, with some minor component and finishing kit concessions - just as it should be. Machines of this calibre hold their value better too, so with some basic TLC, you could reasonably expect to recoup 50% of the initial outlay come resale, or handed on to a younger sibling/family member when outgrown. www.frogbikes.com
teCh speC: Frog 62 manuFaCturer quoteD approx age
Red, Purple, Orange, Black
Aluminium 12" Frog 62 Frame
116mm Sealed Bottom Bracket
140mm Aluminium Black Crank
Steel 36 Teeth
Integral Black Chain Guard
Tektro 836AL Aluminium V Brake Black
Tektro Aluminium JL510-TS V Brake Lever Black
Frog Bikes Aluminium 80mm Stem
Frog Bikes Aluminium Straight Handlebar Width 520mm
Frog Bikes Specific Slim Grips
Frog Bikes Saddle Size:234*143mm, Black, adjustable rails for better fit
Aluminium 27.2 with Quick Release for easy adjustment
Plastic with Ball Bearings and Reflectors
Aluminium 24" x 1.5" 28 holes Black (Weight:440g) and Quick Release for easy removal of wheels
Aluminium 28 holes
Kenda 24" x 1.75" hybrid tyres
Kenda 24" x 1.75" with Schrader Valves
right hand gear shifter
Shimano SL-RS35-7R Revo-shifter 7 Speed Black
Shimano RD-TY21 Black
Shimano 7 Speed Index 14-28T
Plastic Mudguards front and rear
www.cyclingworldmag.com | Cycling World 45
products & technical
CYCLo Workshop Chain tooL £49.99 Resembling a cold war missile launcher of the sort now languishing in remote parts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia and commanding the lion’s share of fifty quid, some will argue Cyclo workshop chain tool is overkill for the average home fettler. However, drivetrains are becoming increasingly sensitive, demanding more frequent chain maintenance or replacement, so while basic Rivoli patterns are bang-on for casual road/trailside tune-ups, they’re not meant for the rigors of regular service. Precision made here in blighty, it boasts an investment cast aluminium body and forged steel pin, although nudging 310g it’s bound for tool boards, not jersey pockets. Available in either black or ballburnished finishes, its voluptuous pistol grip sits tactile yet secure for long periods and quickly assumes that distinctive, dare we say curiously fetching patina. Most rivet extractors utilise a single bearing bush, whereas the Cyclo locates via three for pinpoint accuracy when combined with the oversized thread. Ultimately these will blunt but we’re talking years, rather than months and inexpensive replacements are readily available. Given it’s marketed at a pro audience, I was disappointed to discover it tackles everything bar eleven speed 3/32 derailleur chains, which might prove a deal breaker for those looking to service/install top flight groupsets. That aside, ours hasn’t missed a beat in three week’s intensive
testing, the blend of oversized materials and beautiful machining has made very short work of the most neglected examples. Far from arthritic, a quick shot of PTFE lube helped the threaded sections limber up but I split and rejoined my own fleet’s six, seven, eight and nine speed derailleur chains in a matter of five minutes - only an industrial looking 1/8 half link unit put up any resistance, easily corrected by reversing the pin, realigning and driving it fully out. Speaking of which, despite sublime action, the lack of play greatly improves feedback, so only complete novices or the most distracted will unintentionally expel a link. Michael Stenning Verdict: Superb workshop chain breaker that’s a delight to use but many will expect eleven speed compatibility for the money. www.weldtite.co.uk
reVoLution taCk ¾ Length Baggies £54.99 Revolution Tack ¾ length baggies are the result of a passionate tryst between trail shorts and messenger knickers. Don’t be put off by the mtb tag, stealth black with tuneable calf grips compliment road togs and most genres of machine from full suspension to featherweight fixer. Two layer brushed nylon outer and Rayon/nylon/elastane won’t set pulses racing either but frankly, standards of construction are equal to many boutique brands. Made by Polaris to Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative’s exacting standards, panels are lovingly double stitched and carefully tailored to avoid gathering, bunching and other nasty habits. A clever rubberised reflective logo running vertically along the right leg comes usefully alive under vehicle headlamps without spoiling the smart casual effect. Plentiful pockets are de rigueur but the Tack’s seem better engineered than most, remaining functional while not detracting from chic lines. Two at the hip ensure convenient hand parking when mooching about, the right augmented by a zippered cubbyhole gobbles smaller wallets/smart phones and even some bijoux compact
cameras without prodding intrusively or impeding decent cadences when hunkered low on the drops. Butt types are infamously ineffectual, so these are offset with angled Velcro closures preventing escapee maps/ shopping lists/cinema tickets etc making bids for freedom. I’ve regularly stowed multi tools and the odd banana for fifteen miles without them becoming a pain in the proverbial or getting squished. Generous sizing meant our mediums needed some nipping and tucking to prevent them sliding from my thirty-two inch waist but thankfully, a deep waistband and loops ensures belts are a viable alternative to the integral adjusters, which popped undone with frustrating regularity. Some will bemoan a lack of padded insert but these would push the cost up and frankly, I find the OEM type ineffectual. Mercifully, eight panel road models slip unobtrusively beneath for daylong comfort without hint of chafing or irksome surfing that can arise with traditional leather perches. Several weeks’ early season service hasn’t necessitated any additional airflow, so the ventilation channels have been handy overflow parking for energy bars, blinkies, spare batteries and similar contingencies. Cut and coverage are similarly faultless, protecting the knees when temperatures tumble and particularly welcome sans asphalt, where the fabrics have
emerged unscathed despite encounters with extremely hostile foliage. Michael Stenning Verdict: Social chameleons of the cycling world that blend in perfectly sans bike-highly recommended. Sizes: S-XXL www.edinburghbicycle.com
46 Cycling World | www.cyclingworldmag.com
products & technical
CYCLo riVeX 3/32 Chain riVet eXtraCtor £9.99 The popularity of Swiss army style pocket workshops over the past twenty years has revolutionised road/trailside fettling. However, while undeniably effective, their chain breaking functions can prove distinctly fiddly - especially when it’s raining dogs and light’s fading fast. Cyclo Rivex chain rivet extractor is a cheap and relatively cheerful reworking of the iconic Rivoli that comes in standard and narrow variants, catering for 5-9 and 9-11 speed 3/32 derailleur chains respectively. Tidy-freaks and those inspired by the globe trotting Crane Cousins’ minimalist approach will applaud cast aluminium construction that keeps weight to a feathery 88g and even dismantles, optimising available luggage space. This includes the long, willowy wand, which supposedly affords additional torque during the splitting/rejoining process; although the knurled brace post is static. Then comes the relatively deep spreader trough, employing two lugs for tackling those irksome arthritic links - the latter oversized for strength and to prevent pins being driven completely adrift. Machining of the threaded sections isn’t particularly accurate, negating some of the efficiencies promised by longer handles and aluminium seems an odd choice for high stress applications. Ours was the standard model, which proved surprisingly serviceable when tackling properly lubricated Sram/Shimano patterns, although the wand’s tenure is reliant upon two rubberised end caps, which can readily come adrift, causing it to fall through. Galvanised and similarly weather resistant finishes caused the pin to slip, necessitating repeated realignment before successful connection was achieved Such frustration became particularly acute when trying to replace three broken links during a torrential April hailstorm but it ultimately spared our blushes and a fifteen-mile walk home. Ultimately, it’s fine for occasional use on well-maintained chains but reliability rides, mountain biking and longer haul touring demand something considerably more substantial. Michael Stenning Verdict: Lightweight tool for occasional/ emergency use. www.weldtite.co.uk
siLVa Commute LeD Light £19.99 Available in a choice of four colours (green, turquoise, purple and grey) Silva commute might lag behind in the lumens race but a carefully engineered optic ensures superior peripheral prowess, avoiding potentially dangerous blind spots when entering the flow of traffic. Specification is pretty typical of this genre. At the business end there’s a sophisticated collimator lens designed to get the very best from the tiny white diode, which pumps out a commendable 45 lumens in the highest of three settings. Speaking of which, the commute shuns increasingly obligatory Li-on rechargeable cells in favour of tour friendly AAA. Reassuringly good quality composites bode well for longevity, shrugging at the inevitable everyday carelessness and Silva boast that it’s unaffected by temperatures as low as minus twenty. Access to the internals simply involves depressing the belly mounted switch while withdrawing the end plug, revealing battery tray, circuitry and switch gear. This explains why it’s only marketed as splash proof and I’ve been inclined towards a quick lick of Vaseline or silicone grease on the contacts. A rubberised centre mounted switch is easily operated in gloved hands and on the fly, although not the sort to accidentally engage when hibernating in jersey pockets or panniers. Tool-free silicone wrap over mounts have become another welcome default in recent years, offering secure purchase, yet slipping off in seconds when locking in the street. This one is unremarkable, other than to say it sweeps anaconda fashion around the full panacea of handlebar diameters without indigestion. Real world performance has been very impressive, capturing the attentions of approaching traffic to around three hundred metres in top, two hundred in standard and a very commendable three hundred and fifty in flashing. I’ve found the latter extremely useful as a dynamo companion - not just waiting at junctions but in that it clearly identifies you as a cyclist to oncoming traffic and pedestrians. In steady modes, the pure white beam is refreshingly free of halos and therefore just about good enough for urban navigation to around 12mph. Showers and heavier downpours have had zero impact upon reliability with no obvious traces of ingress. Run times with premium grade cells are broadly comparable with those quoted, respectively returning 18.5, 47.5 and 98 hours. Michael Stenning Verdict: Surprisingly potent contingency/secondary light with frugal run times and tour practical fuel source. www.silva.se
www.cyclingworldmag.com | Cycling World 47
products & technical
shimano pDa 520 peDaLs £49.99 Shimano’s imaginatively monikered PDA520 are essentially a singlesided touring version of the Japanese giant’s SPD system, aimed primarily at Audax and touring audiences but with features befitting classic builds needing to retain their period feel. Official figures quote 318g but my scales consistently registered a more favourable 278 per pair, which is good news for bikes on calorie-controlled diets. Sharing some clear similarities with the brand’s iconic 1980s 600 EX, their aluminium bodies boast a high lustre silver anodised finish that should age very gracefully. Platforms aren’t purely aesthetic, rather engineered for optimal support to those rubberised mid sections synonymous with twin bolt touring soles, theoretically minimising fatigue over longer distances. Internally we’ve sealed cartridge bearings turning on hardy Cro-moly axles, which in my experience are splendidly long-lived given a yearly strip and smothered with marine grease - more frequently on bikes racking up massive mileages or serving in harsh conditions. OEM cleats are forged steel single release affairs but the mechanisms have six degrees of knee friendly float and tweaking spring tension is simply a matter of turning an easily accessible 3m Allen bolt. Engaging my feet and powering off, I was immediately struck by their rigidity - vastly superior to many magnesium bodied Keo homages and, as testing progressed, I became convinced competitive potential is only limited by compliant soles. Stiff audax slippers brought the very best from them. Powering along the climbs at a steady 90rpm with my full weight dancing atop couldn’t induce any obvious power robbing flex, or phantom squeaks. Wider surface areas certainly help on longer runs, distributing weight evenly, banishing painful hotspots. These certainly don’t preclude spirited cornering whether tackling
sweeping descents or suburban roundabouts - even with 175mm cranks. However, dual sided designs have the edge if you regularly navigate stop-go traffic on a fixed. With variable gears, I’ve revelled in the ability to rest my left foot atop the flat side, ready for split second dab-downs and scoot-offs. Speaking of which, pattern cleats seem remarkably agreeable, albeit with occasional hesitancy so its worth checking their compliance if alternating between footwear. Michael Stenning Verdict: Versatile pedals, well suited to touring but wouldn’t look out of place on an eighties classic road bike either. www.madison.co.uk
Long term test: siLVa paVe sport Bike Light £169.99 No, the camera isn’t lying, nor has some batty boffin been experimenting with matter shrinking technology; Silva Pave sport bike light really is that compact. Tipping the scales at 183g, it will only perturb owners of featherweight road bikes and of which, 133g is attributable to its 5x3 7.5volt rechargeable li-on battery that nestles unobtrusively beneath top tube (or jersey pocket when on helmet duty) With its white body and black detailing, the fossil shaped aluminium shell resists accidental damage but generates heat remarkably quickly, so care’s needed when performing switch offs/removals to avoid scorched digits. On the plus side, IPX (Ingress Protection Rating) 6 shuts the door to everything bar underwater immersion. Suffice to say switchgear; diodes and clever concave
lens have remained completely unscathed despite prolonged, torrential downpours and hosepipe torture testing. Intelligent lighting usually refers to a system of automatic kick-down, thus conserving battery life, but in this instance means flood and spot run simultaneously in all bar the lowest, flashing setting. A sturdy silicone strap entertains the full zodiac of handlebar diameters (even the Univega’s Godzilla drops couldn’t induce indigestion) while vertical mounting continues this clutter-phobic minimalism. Depressing the switch once unleashes the full 550 lumens, toggling down to standard brings output closer to two-fifty, whereas flashing has been somewhat trickier to induce. Not that this worried me, since I’ve found its pulsing cycles somewhat distracting (as have other vehicles, especially through built up areas) although, in fairness, said setting has saved our blushes when two hour blasts have turned into three on account of wrong turns with punctures thrown in for good measure. Plummeting temperatures have made negligible impression upon the run times, which have consistently returned 2hrs 20 minutes (max), 9 hrs 43 and 19hrs 15 respectively from a full four hour charge. Max
enables navigation of unlit rural backwaters to around 25mph, the flood giving good generic overview, while its spot sibling plays minesweeper, highlighting potholes and similar surface imperfections to around fifteen feet. Helmet mounted and supporting 1000 lumen systems, the broader pool puts light where you’re looking, offering a faster, safer nocturnal experience. However, it’s distinctly underpowered for solo duties in this context and ours has always been flanked by a couple of powerful blinkies to reinforce road presence. Michael Stenning Verdict: Ultra compact, tuneable road lamp that converts to a very capable helmet mounted secondary trail option. Test Period: 9 months www.silva.se
48 Cycling World | www.cyclingworldmag.com
Frame & Forks £900 Complete builds from £1580 In sizes from 48cm to 60cm! A touring bike needs stable steering. You don’t want the bike to be upset by rough roads, sidewinds, or heavy loads. The bike has a titanium frame with a shallow head angle for stability, combined with a steel fork with a long offset to produce nicely balanced steering. “It’s a totally sound tourer, one of the best I’ve had the opportunity to ride.” Chris Juden, Cycle Magazine June-July 2011 Ti Frame & Forks £850 Complete builds from £1600 Our Titanium Audax bike is designed for riding Audaxes, but we wanted more than that. We wanted the bike to also be suitable for a clubman’s winter bike, for all-weather commuting, and also light touring, such as hostelling or staying in B&B’s. The steering is a bit quicker than the tourer so the ride is lively enough to be entertaining, but stable enough for adverse road and weather conditions. “Quite honestly the Audax is one of the smoothest, most enjoyable bikes I have ever pedalled. ….............A simply wonderful bike” 94% Cycling Active, November 2011 The same frame geometry built in Reynolds 725 is now available as our Steel Audax model. While weighing a few hundred grams more, it retains the excellent qualities of it’s titanium cousin allied with the comfort and responsiveness of a high quality steel frame. “Spa sweat the details and build the most practical bike for the money” Chris Juden, Cycle Magazine February-March 2013
Steel Frame & Forks £305 Complete builds from £1200
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16/07/2013 15/07/2013 11:05 13:26
preview | CYCLE show 2013
The CyCle Show 2013 If you are interested in the latest in cycling, there is nowhere better to have your annual update than the Cycle Show at the NEC, Birmingham. Is it just flash gear and techie stuff?
o, resoundingly no. In fact, the last three years have seen a resurgence in the fun element of cycling. 2012 was colourful – the top names in all the disciplines were there – but there were lots of brightly coloured offerings, not just for children. The greatest expansion in the last few years has been in the power assisted bicycle section – so much now that it has its own section. At one time the power-assisted bicycle was something of a lumbering novelty. Nowadays you will find all sorts of bikes with batteries that will take you much further on a single charge and with a much lighter feel. Similarly, the range of child-specific bicycles has seen great expansion. Yet the old favourites are there, too; old friends and familiar faces aplenty. Nor is it a day out of the saddle necessarily – try out the Dare 2b commuter track, where you can try out road and commuter bikes, or the elite road bike track – mounts over £1500 only. Don’t be put off
by the blurb that states you’ll get advice on your next purchase – there’s no compulsion to pay for your propulsion. Apart from the gawping at bikes, gear, holidays and events on show – not to mention Cycling World’s presence – I relish the opportunity to mix with such a hotchpotch of other cyclists. Whatever, your preference, here are some of the highlights; NEW ELITE ROAD BIKE TRACK offers a unique chance to ride a selection of £1500+ road bikes with pro riders on-hand to offer riding tips. PRO DIRT JUMPING COMP - Dirt jumping is making a comeback to theNEC with a competition featuring the UK’s top dirt jumpers. BMX PARK CONTEST - The BMX arena will return to the show with the best UK and international freestyle riders compete in daily park contests on a new course built by 414.
50 Cycling World | www.cyclingworldmag.com
preview | CYCLE show 2013
MTB DEMO TRACK - The woodland singletrack trail includes rock gardens, berms, rollers and jumps designed to give the latest mountain bikes a proper testing. ELECTRIC BIKE VILLAGE - The best in the electric bike market plus an e-bike friendly test track to try before you buy. DARE 2B COMMUTER TRACK – Try out the latest commuter and road bikes. QUEST 88 INCLUSIVE CYCLING HUB – The latest and the best in adapted bicycles. KIDS TEST TRACKS- The show will feature two kids demo tracks - one of the two kids tracks - one for kids aged 5 and
under and another for kids aged 6 – 12 The trade day is on Thursday, September 26th, with the show open to the public from Friday 27th, Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th of September.
Full show and exhibitor details can be found at www.cycleshow.co.uk, with tickets available at www.cycleshow.co.uk/book As a reader of Cycling World, you can get tickets at a reduced price – see details below.
JOIN US AT THE UK’S BIGGEST CYCLING EVENT The Cycle Show is set to showcase hundreds of bike and accessory brands at the NEC this September. Grab a sneak preview of the hottest 2014 bikes and meet some of the biggest names in cycling. There’s something for every type of cyclist – try out the latest road and mountain bikes on the outdoor demo tracks, watch the best freestyle BMX pros, MTB dirt jumpers and trials riders in action or try out a top-of-the-range racing bike on the new elite road bike track.
CYCLING WORLD MAGAZINE TICKET OFFER
Cycling World Magazine subscribers are offered a special ticket price of just £11.50* per adult ticket in advance. Visit www.cycleshow.co.uk/ book and enter discount code CWO when prompted. What’s more, tickets for children aged 14 and under are just £1 when bought with an adult ticket. Plus children under 5 go free. *Tickets are normally £13 in advance and £16 on the door. A £1 booking fee will be charged for all advance bookings per transaction. The price quoted does not include the booking fee. Ticket offer valid until 20th September 2013.
www.cyclingworldmag.com | Cycling World 51
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16/07/2013 14:47 11:05 28/06/2013
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informalistas | comment
sUPErnatUrals There’s more to cycling than riding a bike, with Paul Wagner and Bert Catchpole
here’s no doubt in my mind that Shropshire is one of the most rewarding, least spoiled cycling counties of all, and our beautiful high moorland is right at the heart of it. The Long Mynd is probably the best-known range of heather-clad hills but alongside it runs a parallel, less frequented ridge called the Stiperstones. The Stiperstones area has everything you could wish for, and tucked away in its folds, or stuck up little bits of dead-end valleys locally known as batches, from the Welsh bach, or little – (Wales is, after all, only a mile away), lies a Shropshire that many locals don’t even know about. Many thousands of years of history can be found here – millions, if your interest is in geology – and there’s a
lifetime’s study in any one of its hamlets or lanes. Every cottage has a tale and every lovely view bears the scars of times past – the Stiperstones area could provide touring projects for many years if you have interests beyond just turning the pedals. I used to work here so I know the area intimately, both on the ground and in its many moods. In winter the weather can be desperately harsh while summers are normally very pleasant indeed, but I have never experienced the kind of conditions that you will read about in the tale that follows. My friend Bert Catchpole penned it years ago and I offer it to you as a cautionary introduction to the area, and also because I have never, as a cyclist, read anything half as frightening. It tells you
of how the weather can suddenly change for the worse in apparently benign hill country, so be warned!
Above: The Bog Visitor Centre: a haven in bad weather and a fount of knowledge.
Bert writes…. “We all know and enjoy the beauties of the Stiperstones and the tumbled lands which surround it, and during my long association with the pastime of cycling (and walking) I have been both here and on the adjacent Long Mynd in inclement weather conditions, particularly during the long, dark days of winter – and like many readers I have some knowledge of their history. In bad weather the Long Mynd and the Stiperstones can be dangerous places, but there the comparison ends. In my mind, in such conditions the
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informalistas | comment
latter also exercises a malignant influence, a brooding sense almost of evil. The ‘backdrop’ to this is that the area is steeped in folklore and in the activities of the past – the lead mines worked from Roman times, and the sense of desolation on a dull cold winter’s day as one sees the remains of the workings at Pennerley and elsewhere, or as one stands in the ancient Mitchell’s Fold stone circle as dusk is falling and a bitter westerly wind heralds snow on the morrow. And don’t forget the looming peak of the Stiperstones – The Devil’s Chair. In mist and rain ‘He’ is sitting there. In cycling one sometimes experiences discomfort for all sorts of reasons, most usually the weather, but these are all forgotten in the joys of our journeys in the happy companionship of our friends, and in the quiet contentment of a good day out. However, the emotion of sheer terror is ordinarily outside the orbit of our cycling emotions, but I can recall one such experience and if you will all settle comfortably, I will endeavour to tell the tale. Let us look back to Sunday 23rd May
1965. The day began sunny and quite warm though the forecast hinted at sudden storms later in the day, but gaily ignoring the warning we set out from Wellington – Arthur Edwards, me and my eldest son David on tandem, (he being eight years old), and his friend Nicholas who was, I think, about ten. We made our way across country to Exfords Green and on to Castle Pulverbatch, then followed a track skirting Huglith Hill, whereabouts we stopped for a picnic lunch. A steep descent to Habberley Brook preceded a long climb into Eastridge Wood, from where there are extensive views of the many hills and valleys in this area – we were beginning to enjoy ourselves. There came a long walk onto the central spine of the Stiperstones and I recall that it was 3.00pm in the vicinity of Perkins Beach when I glanced back across to the Long Mynd. The skyline had almost disappeared behind jet-black clouds, and at the same time a gale force wind hit us
as the coming onslaught rushed across the valley at express train speed. I called upon my troops to press forward with all haste since there was nothing else we could do, just as the rain commenced with tropical intensity. In retrospect, there wasn’t much point in caping up but we stopped and went through the motions, then struggled on, getting ever perilously closer to The Devil’s Chair. Then the wind changed with dramatic suddenness and the elements were flung straight into our faces, and then – all hell broke loose! Terrific and continuous claps of thunder, incessant flashes of blue-green lightning skittering along the quartzite rocks that form the floor of this area, and then the hail! It came with demoniacal fury, lashing our faces and legs so that the pain was intense, and almost stopping us from breathing. I yelled to the others to drop the machines and to lie on the ground, and though they couldn’t hear me
Top Right: The Stiperstones ridge, with The Devil’s Chair far right. Bottom Right: Cranberry rocks, where Bert got off the ridge.
www.cyclingworldmag.com | Cycling World 59
informalistas | comment they followed my example and we flung ourselves onto the glistening rocks as the lightning hissed and bounced off alongside and over our bodies, while the thunder, the rain, the hail and the wind made a Devil’s accompaniment about our hapless heads. I held young David close to me and I tried to keep our capes over us, both lads sobbing with terror, and Arthur and me feeling we would like to do the same, but daren’t! Then I realised that we were lying right in the lee of The Devil’s Chair. After a few minutes the thunder and lightning passed over, the hail ceased and we staggered to our feet, picked up the tandem and the bikes, both they and us soaking wet, and made our way, riding and walking, to where the track joined the road from The Bog down towards Bridges. We began to sort ourselves out preparatory to dropping down to the main road when without warning another squall of hail hit us amidships. It was impossible to face it – the pain of thousands of tiny ice flakes against the flesh was intense, and we just turned our backs and leaned against the wire fence, like four sheep turning
Below: Ratlinghope Post Office (that was), where the party enjoyed a good feed. It is now a private dwelling. The current owner, Richard (in the foreground), told me a fascinating tale about the history of the property, but that will have to wait.
their backs on a blizzard. It was over in a minute or two and we resumed our journey, joined the main road near Bridges and made our way to the haven of Mrs Jones’ at the Post Office at Ratlinghope, (a teashop at that time), wet, demoralised but hungry. After a lovely meal, typical of those offered by Mrs Jones in those hallowed days of the sixties, we took to the road again and began to climb up the valley, looking forward to reaching home, and thankfully, we had survived the worst. Walking up the steep bit towards the Stitt Farms, the sky darkened, the wind blew and once again, it hailed like fury. Fortunately it was on our backs and Arthur and Nicholas optimistically dived into a deep roadside ditch, which was reasonably dry, while I, now beyond caring, wrapped David’s cape around him, put him on the rear saddle, and walked the tandem onwards, oblivious of hail, rain or anything else. Eventually, it stopped and we reached the summit of Cothercott Hill, and held a ‘council of war’. Arthur decided he could make it home through the by-roads, but I decided to carry on to Shrewsbury with the boys, go to the station
and put the machines and ourselves on the next train, and so we arrived at Wellington in due course, damp, tired and fed up. Looking back, two things intrigue me. Firstly, once we left Eastridge Wood we never saw another soul or even any parked cars up towards The Bog, and even when we reached the main road on the way home, only one or two cars passed us. Secondly, I have never before or since experienced a storm of such tropical intensity, not even when I was in India – yet as I recall, no mention was made in the local press of these abnormal conditions. Well folks, that’s a true story of one of the bad days. Anyone can write about blue skies and wonderful views! Now in 1964 David and I had another brush with the Stiperstones, but that’s another story……” It is years since I first read Bert’s account, but I have never forgotten it. It made an indelible impression on my mind and even now, whenever I pass by the Stiperstones I give the rocky ridge a respectful glance, hoping that it never catches me out like that. Nowadays, no local walker or cyclist goes off-road here when the weather’s dodgy. It’s a hell of a bad place to be caught out, like Bert says!
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Left: The road down to Bridges, looking at The Long Mynd.
inForMATion The weather in the Stiperstones area can deteriorate extremely rapidly and there are times when even being on the lower slopes, just cycling along the road, can be a trial. The ridge is known to be subject to lightning strike and you’d be well advised to keep off the tops unless everything is set fair, at which time you’ll never be anywhere more beautiful in the country, or enjoy more sweeping views. I was in The Bog Visitor Centre recently and I bought a book of poems written by the late Brenda Shaw, who lived up here all her life. One of the pieces is entitled ‘The Devil’s Chair’ and verse two goes – When thunder claps echo, locals are thought to say, each sagely nodding, head to head, ‘Ee be a wum today’. The Bog , The Bog Visitor Centre. OS 137, GR 357979. This is the place to come if you want information, food or a toilet – or even all three, if the weather’s lousy. You could spend all day here finding stuff out and stuffing your face, and I still visit from time to time, to find out what’s currently on the activity agenda. Knowledgeable volunteers run the centre, and very well they do it too. www.bogcentre.co.uk or phone 01743 792484
Bridges, Youth Hostel. The hostel is conveniently situated just 100yards from the pub. Phone 01588 650656
‘Ee be a wum’ is local dialect for ‘he is at home’ today – he being the Devil, of course. His phantom looms large up here, even now. Bert’s allusion to spooky goings on is well founded. Apart from the Devil himself, legends of witches and ghosts abound, and Wild Edric, a Saxon nobleman, and his fairy wife Godda, are known to charge about on horseback warning of war to come – fortunately they are not seen very often. There are earthly remains going back to the Bronze Age and the relics of much more recent hill dwellers, in the form of derelict cottages and mine workings, are everywhere. I have both worked and cycled here for nearly half a century so I know the people and their places, and I am still deeply in its thrall. You will never want for interest around the Stiperstones.
The Stiperstones Inn. OS 126, GR 364005. Open all day, every day, they will feed and water you, rent you a room, and generally see to your well-being without any fuss or palaver. There is a small village shop attached. Cyclists and walkers have been coming here for many years and we have always been made most welcome. Phone 01743 791327 Bridges, The Horseshoe Inn. OS 137, GR 395964. The pub has recently been taken over by the Three Tuns pub in nearby Bishops Castle, which has its own brewery. If you want exceptionally good beer to go with your equally good food, this is the place to be. Phone 01588 650260
PS. On a purely personal note, for the last three hundred years my family’s core roots are known to have been in south Wales and London, but last year I found that I also have a relative who was born in 1781at Rock Farm, The Bog, literally under a the rock face at the southern end of the Stiperstones ridge. I recently enjoyed a conducted tour of the property, now tidily modernised but without having had its character or ‘feel’ destroyed, but it’s so far off the beaten track that there’s still no mains electricity. It’s a lovely spot but I can’t hack ‘isolated’ so I wouldn’t want to live there, even if it is an ancestral home. What it must have been like back in the old days, I shudder to think.
www.cyclingworldmag.com | Cycling World 61
CTC July Left page.pdf 1 7/10/2013 2:43:28 PM
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ORKNEY | bcq
BCQ 14: ORKNEY; COmpaCt aNd fERtilE Mark Jacobson heads south to Orkney
he ferry from Lerwick arrives at Kirkwall at about 11 pm. Some cyclists will book the first night in the hostel. Knowing the camp site (I had stayed there some ten years previously), I went directly there. The tent area has shrunken! Most is now a building site for the new swimming pool, part of the adjacent leisure centre. With the ferry docking early, I rode off with James, whom I had met on Shetland and who had booked a hostel bed, but who would be camping thereafter. Reaching the tent area I saw Joe, a Canadian cycle camper who had also been on the Lerwick site while I was there, who helped me find a suitable spot. Using the ambient light to erect my tent was no problem, unpacking went well, so I even felt fine for showering before bed. The new ablution block is fantastic! Each shower cubicle contains also toilet and basin. In addition, there is a lounge, kitchen (no cooking except in microwave or with kettle, both provided) and laundry room. Very nice. For those travelling to Orkney directly from Caithness, there are three routes: passenger ferry from John ‘o Groats to Burwick; Gills Bay to St Margarets Hope; or Scrabster to Stromness. There are camp sites near both Stromness and St Margaret’s Hope. Orkney is much more compact than Shetland, more fertile, with many visitor attractions to enjoy. I had seen most of these
during my visit here of ten years’ previously, so I was more concerned with the Quest and taking time to see those parts I had not been visited on that earlier tour. In particular, I hoped to be able to see the Old Man of Hoy. As one clue would be off the mainland, on Hoy, this should be possible. Much of the first day was spent indoors, as fairly dire weather was forecast for the next 36 hours. The lounge gave refuge for the morning, after which Joe set off for his ferry to the mainland, while James and I went townwards for lunch and to attend an afternoon lecture, which would link tree rings with mythology. On Shetland I had attended a lecture on Astro-biology. This sort of activity is fairly common on these distant and distinct islands.
Taking a chance next day by cycling into the wind, I took the southern road via Orphir towards Stromness, stopping briefly to revisit the chapel ruins at Earl’s Bu. The horrifying tale regarding this site can be found well documented in the Orkneyinga Saga (Penguin Classics, ISBN 0-14-0443835), worth reading before reaching these islands. Arriving at the A965 T junction, I turned for Tormiston Mill and its splendid cafe, only to discover that this had closed some 9 years’ previously! Fortunately, retracing just a mile into the wind brought me back to Stenness village and an ice cream parlour, for a hot coffee and lovely cake. Then it was time to locate my first BCQ clue of the day, at the Standing Stones of Stenness. These
Above: Cows and clouds at Saint Margaret Hope Right: Stenness
64 Cycling World | www.cyclingworldmag.com
ORKNEY | bcq are very thin slabs standing very tall, three or four times the height of a person, with a small number in a ring. Beyond, not much further, lies the Ring of Brodgar, a really wide and prolific ring of standing stones creating a much more significant structure. In cycling here I had passed a couple riding a Bike Friday tandem and, when arriving at the Scara Brae cafe for lunch, I joined them at their table. They were from Washington DC, enjoying a Scottish (or Orcadian) break. Proceeding on my quest I came to Birsay. The Brough was cut off by the tide at this time but my clue was found at the Earl’s Palace, so no delay in waiting for the answer! My return ride on more major roads went quickly, wind behind for much of the distance, so, arriving back in Kirkwall early enough, I went on in to the harbour to solve the third clue for Orkney. Dawning cloudy and windy, but dry, I set off next morning for Hoy, reached by the Houton ferry. This would take me to Lyness, at the southern end of Hoy. The ferry from Stromness would have served my purpose better, but the timing would have been difficult from Kirwall, better from Stromness itself. Arriving at Lyness after a windy crossing, I headed directly for the Museum café; the eleven miles to Houton earlier against the wind (8 mph only) having taken some effort. Thereafter I went out on the road towards Hoy. My intention to see the Old Man had been abandoned, as the cliffs above which form the view point were well and truly covered in low cloud. However, I thought I could reach the end of the road at Rackwick, which has a good museum. The road along the northern side of Hoy undulates so I did get some shelter from the stiff SW breeze, making the going reasonable. I found the grave for the Hoy clue and continued towards Hoy until very near the road junction. Here the wind funnelled between the high hills and riding towards Rackwick, or even walking the bike, would have proved almost impossible. This fury of thefunnelling wind even caused a small water spout out to sea. Instead I returned to Lyness and spent an interesting time in the museum, before
Top Right: Bay of Skail Middle Left: Right: cows and clouds on Hoy Middle Right: Hoy Bottom: The Italian chapel
taking the only Saturday ferry back that afternoon. Despite the changes to my plan, the day had been well spent, and I had made new friends, too. Taking a chance on Sunday cafes being open, I set off along the road crossing the Churchill barriers for the South Mainland and my last two clues for Orkney. Sun shining, breeze not too strong now, a good ride with views of Scarpa Flow and Hoy to my right. The Fossil Museum on Burray has an excellent cafe, with good fare. I not only stopped for elevenses but returned for lunch! But first I revisited the Italian Chapel, a real gem. Built by Italian prisoners of
war during the 1940’s this is startling in its beauty. Do not miss it when visiting. The last clue came at Olad summit; finding a distance recorded to a far off place! After that the wind hurled me back to lunch. Due to leave the following evening on the late ferry to Aberdeen, I rode out in the morning to Deerness, the north-eastern part of Mainland which I had not previously visited. The road bypasses the airport (a cafe there!) and a memorial to the first commercial flight to Orkney, topped by a model Dragon Rapide. Despite all the weather we had enjoyed (!), the ferry crossing proved very calm.
To Go Where No CyClisT has GoNe Before Well, not really – lots will have been before – but the idea behind the BCQ is that it will encourage people to explore areas of Great Britain which they might not, under normal circumstances, visit by bicycle. To take part one must join the CTC, which also offers other membership benefits such as insurance, information and discounts. A set of clues for each county, complete with grid references, takes one around our island. One could try “googling” the clues, but your sense of honour should step in before this canker addles your otherwise good character. In any case, there are no
prizes beyond recognition and as a touring cyclist you will have an uncorrupted sense of decency in such matters. The clues will take you far and wide, so picking them up in one tour would be the trip of a lifetime. However, one couple have sworn only to collect clues when they are together and have cycled at least twenty miles to do so (as part of a round trip). It may be frustrating to whizz past clues when out alone, but the BCQ deserves our respect. The CTC will be pleased to hear if any of the clues are no longer possible to answer.
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PPT | BUSINESS BACK STORY
PUNCTURE PROOF TYRES “Solid tyres shake bikes so much they can fall to pieces. They roll badly and don’t grip as well as pneumatics. We did away with them over 100 years ago for good reason.”
nonymous, cycle forum comment from 2009. “Puncture Proof Tyres Ltd, suppliers of the AMERITYRE brand of PU bicycle tyres has heard it all, and if only the comments above were as polite as this one!” James Bowett Managing Director of PPT, as we’ll now call, it was totally in agreement with the above as well. He said “I originally imported a couple just to see what they were like…especially as I have two sons both of whom refused to ride their bikes unless I spent every evening blowing up their tyres first!” James changed his mind when he realised people wanted to buy them but there were very few outlets for these types of tyre. “We supply a large number of AMERITYRE PU tyres to the commercial/ industrial and domestic markets and so were comfortable in the technology and the feedback received from happy customers,” enthuses James. “So let’s talk about the technology,” says James. “There are two types of PU foam tyre currently manufactured for the cycle market. The first is “Open Cell” foam the second is “Closed Cell” foam. The main difference is that the open cell foam can’t protect itself from collapsing and water absorption; the closed cell foam can. Closed cell foam doesn’t absorb water and, as the name implies, is sealed; a bit like a balloon, when it is compressed it tries to flex back to its original shape just like a normal pneumatic inner tube would.” He admits that these will not be the same as pneumatics. “Now there are some penalties with this type of tyre. Hardness is one of them, though with slightly
less rolling resistance than expected. Remember, however, that many riders don’t check tyre pressures very much if at all, oh except when their flat, so many would not know if they were riding a tyre with a slightly reduced rolling resistance,” he points out. James offers an independent report by the University of Ottawa, Canada, which, in July 2006, concluded that; “It was found that there was no significant difference between the closed cell polyurethane 700 C x 23mm tyre and pneumatic 700 C x 23mm tyres in either of the 20 minute endurance test trials and the 10 sec sprinting trial. Therefore no significant biomechanical differences were observed in the comparison of a traditional pneumatic tyre and the tyre on bicycle rollers. Although the closed cell polyurethane tyres performed admirably, the participants subjectively commented that they felt more resistance with the closed cell polyurethane tyre than traditional pneumatic tyre. Further
investigations need to be performed for the tyres under various other conditions.” James feels that there is a long-held prejudice against solid tyres, but he says “We’re only interested in helping people to ride their bicycles, and many of our customers tell us we are doing just that. Cyclists come from many different walks of life, as such should be given the facts about what’s available in the market place not what the industry thinks they should know. Common comments received at PPT are “Where can we buy your tyres?!”, “Why don’t cycle stores stock your product?!” “There are many cycling organisations out there asking people to get on their bikes, no matter what the cause general fitness, fundraising etc…as a cycling industry let us properly support the movement with products that provide solutions for everyone, not just the chosen few.” “For many customers the polyurethane closed cell tyre is a sensible solution to their cycling needs. For example, children, the disabled, the senior generation, people with obesity or weight issues, commuters, leisure and casual users” says James, finishing with quote from client, Mr Forster, “Hi, I purchased a set of cycle tyres from you last November (2011) and this has been the best year I’ve had. The joy of not having a flat and riding all terrain! Thanks a lot!” For more information on PPT tyres please contact: James Bowett. Managing Director. PPT LTD, Barons Court Gardens, Newhouse Lane, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. B61 9ET or call 0844 8006493 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
66 Cycling World | www.cyclingworldmag.com
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74 DEGREES | BUSINESS BACK STORY
WANT A SHIRT? START A BUSINESS When two friends asked Peter McGlone to help them buy bikes for a charity event, he didn’t realise that it would be the catalyst that reignited his passion for cycling and resulted in the launch of a new brand-based cycling business. Peter tells the story behind 74 Degrees Cycling … .
Above: For Sale : a selection from the High Mountains signature series Right: Business and pleasure
fell in love with cycling as a sport in 1981. For me this was a great cycling era, with guys like Hinault, Fignon, Kelly, Roche and, of course, Robert Millar. Growing up in the west of Scotland the five minute Tour updates on World of Sport captured the glamour, passion and romance of an exotic and unusual sport. I was lucky enough to live in a town where a new bike shop had just opened. The owner encouraged local cyclists to congregate and soon I was hanging around soaking up bikes and cycling whenever I could, waiting for the Christmas that would deliver a road bike. The shop guys took me under their wing and I was soon riding with the club, graduating to racing as a schoolboy and junior, albeit with minimal success. As I got older, like many of us, life got in the way of cycling for a long time. Eventually, I picked up a bike after an absence of fifteen years, whilst living in New Zealand. Back in the UK, in 2007, two friends asked me to help them purchase bikes for
the Highland Cross Duathalon. Somehow I left the shop with a singlespeed and the following year saw us all riding the Etape Caledonia with shiny new carbon bikes. All of a sudden I was back, and within another year, had upgraded everything, had a winter bike, a turbo bike and was dreaming about a custom 953 frame, which finally arrived in March. Once back in the cycling world it struck me that, for a sport where kit is so coveted, there didn’t seem to be an off bike brand for cyclists. Looking at the casual wear available I couldn’t see anything that I would have the nerve to wear outside of a cycle jumble. As I was already buying a load of shirts from noncycling brands I decided that it would be a good idea to have my own cycling ones. I wanted to have a tee shirt that captured all the history, excitement and passion that cycling embodies, but in a way that didn’t just scream “Cyclist!” I figured if I wanted these, others like me might want them, too. I thought I could
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74 DEGREES | BUSINESS BACK STORY
set up a small online venture to retail these and maybe make a few quid to pay for some cycling holidays. It seemed natural to start with designs that captured the romance and history of cycle racing. Our website explains the “mythical portrait” described by Benjo Masso in Sweat of the Gods; to us nothing encapsulates this more than the high mountains of Le Tour. The designs would be discrete, but meaningful to cyclists; would be different from anything else and enable you to ‘be a cyclist” when not riding. They would be as environmentally sound as I could make them. This became 74 Degrees Cycling, with the High Mountains as our signature series. I also wanted some polo shirts, with stylish logos commemorating the three grand tours. To make these a little different I thought it would be a good idea to make them from merino wool. Trusted contacts in New Zealand could source these for me. They have invested heavily in merino production and were already producing high quality clothing. In addition to the polo shirts, they suggested that I look at a merino base layer specifically designed for cycling. One of the innovations during my absence from cycling was the use of a base layer. These promised all sorts of comfort and performance enhancement. However, I noticed that after a few wears they often stank. Merino, my contacts said, doesn’t. They could manufacture a product suitable for year round cycling in Europe that was robust enough for everyday use, too.
From talking about it to actually designing, creating and manufacturing product, as well as finding the right partners took a lot longer than anticipated. The beauty of this was that it enabled us to spend a lot of time thinking about the products and what we wanted the business to be. Our philosophy and brand reflect what we feel about cycling and where it should be. To us it’s important that there is a personal investment in the brand. Fast forward a couple of years and we are operational. The business is still in its infancy but we really believe that the base layers we have will stand up to anything out there and perform brilliantly. They are a more robust manufacture and are designed for cyclists. Our tee-shirts are one of the most ethical you can buy and
Top Left: For Sale : From the High Mountains signature series Top Centre and Right: For Sale : Merino Below: Not For Sale : Peter’s “pride and joy”
our designs stand out from the crowd. We have advertised a lot but in today’s market it’s much more important to have people out there using and talking about your product. At the moment the emphasis is on getting the business to a point where it can self-sustain, as there is much more we want to do. We have plans to expand the range of casual shirts, with a Classics Series, and are investigating even more innovative merino base layers, as well as additional colours and more femalespecific products. We need to rebuild the website to enable us to better showcase the products and create an environment for the customers to contribute. To build the brand we are working on a grassroots initiative to promote cycling as well as working outside cycling on joint initiatives. And yes, we do still plan to have those merino polo shirts. You can visit www.seventyfourdegrees. com for more information and contact the company using info@seventyfourdegrees. com You can follow @74Degree on twitter and we are also on facebook. Most of the action is on twitter, and the company will shortly be launching its own blog and epaper collating and condensing cycling news from various sources.
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TANDEM TIME | CYCLE TOURS
TANDEM rIDE Bexhill-on-Sea to Beachy Head and back again
his month Phil and Helen Muir describe one of their favourite shorter rides on the historic south coast of East Sussex riding a Santana Team Scandium. This is a peach of a ride for those who want to take their time meandering around stunning coastal roads, taking in picturepostcard views, interesting coastal towns, historical landmarks and still be back in time for dinner – all without breaking a sweat! Phil and Helen were having a short break in Bexhill-on-Sea, based at the excellent ‘Coast’ bed and breakfast just round the corner from the famous Art Deco style De La Warr Pavilion. From Bexhill Pavilion take yourself along the cycle way on the West Parade. Recently reconstructed this promenade is a real asset to the town and makes a perfect start to get you warmed up for the rest of the ride. At the end of the parade, turn onto South Cliff road before joining the B2182 past Cooden Beach Station and onto Herbrand Walk and Hooe Levels. Continue onto Sluice Lane (as an alternative go over the level crossing at Norman’s Bay and join the lane known as Coast Road) and you are now on Pevensey Levels. Carry on until the A259. Bear left and, at the roundabout in Pevensey, turn left heading for Pevensey Bay. Alternatively, if time permits, head into Pevensey and
visit Pevensey Castle. This was originally a Roman Fort, one of a number known as Saxon Shore forts, and was further adapted six centuries later by the Normans. There is a beach at Pevensey Bay and the Martello Towers along the coast, or take the opportunity to visit one of the many pubs or cafes to refuel. Continue along the A259 and turn left
into Sovereign Harbour. Follow onto Harbour Quay, then Atlantic Drive until you meet the sea, again. Here, take the cycle path all the way into Eastbourne. Thread carefully along the Eastbourne sea front, following Royal Parade, Marine Parade and Grand Parade, passing many typical seaside features of boating lakes, lifeboat stations, pier and such like.
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TANDEM TIME | CYCLE TOURS
Eventually the level surface gives way to a gentle rise, lined with neat, clipped hedges, flower beds and palatial hotels and villas. When you get to St Bede’s School follow the sharp right bend in the road which takes you into Duke’s Drive, marking the start of a steep ascent as the road zig-zags up to Warren Hill. Take a sharp left and follow the aptly named Beachy Head Road over
the downs to Beachy Head. Take time out with an ice cream and admire that breath-taking view up and down the coast. Retrace your steps by first descending to Eastbourne. At the end of the ride Phil and Helen spent time on Bexhill West promenade, admiring the autumn sunset over Beachy Head, before taking
late afternoon tea, with sea views, in the Pavilion. As the ride is only 30 miles, you have plenty of time to nip off the main route on short detours at will, however just sticking to the route will take you past marshland, sea front, cliffs, townscape, marinas, historic buildings and countryside – so this really is a varied and interesting ride.
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TANDEM TIME | CYCLE TOURS
TANDEM rENAISSANCE; THE NEXT GENErATION OF TANDEM rIDErS IS HErE Peter Weeks from The Tandem Club and Ruth Hargreaves from JD Tandems explain the tandem revival …
lthough the tandem has a history that almost stretches back to the birth of the modern bicycle, its appeal has been limited to the curious (and adventurous) who’ve given-it-a-go – and then inevitably been hooked from then on. Therefore, by their very nature, tandems have created a clear niche in the cycling industry – in which their popularity has risen and fallen along with developments in technology and general cycling trends. Experts believe that, with the growth of the leisure cycling industry as a whole, we are in a boom-era for tandem riding with a new generation of bike-curious riders taking to the roads on multi-person machines. The UK Tandem Club is a prime yardstick when it comes to the popularity of the pastime. Formed in 1971 during a time of a declining tandem market, predominantly as a way for diehard owners to ensure the continued supply of tandem-specific parts, the Tandem Club is today thriving with over 4000 active UK club members. It was the growth of the car and motorbike industry in the 1960s and 1970s that had the biggest negative impact on the bicycle business as a whole. Tandeming, at the time, became seen as old-fashioned and out-of-date. What no-one at the
time foresaw, was the arrival of new technologies and the huge growth of interest in leisure cycling that was to come. Modern bike features, such as indexed gears and V-brakes, were making bikes easier and better to ride which further fuelled growth and, since a tandem places extra demands on the brakes and gears, these technical improvements had an even bigger impact on improvements to tandems. The modern day renaissance of tandeming has attracted new and innovative suppliers to the market in the last 10 years including the birth of British designed and hand-assembled Orbit Tandems in Gargrave, Yorkshire. In total over 1000 new tandems are sold annually in the UK. Today’s tandem riders come in all shapes and sizes, young and old. Tandems can be adapted for families to suit a younger stoker, with triplets (and even quads) for larger families. They enable riders with sight impairments and disabilities. Even people with medical conditions affecting their balance and muscle control, which might prevent them riding a normal bike, can often enjoy the freedom of riding on the back of a tandem. Peter Weeks from the Tandem Club said: “There is a resurgence in the number
TANDEM TEAM PROFILE
of younger riders taking an interest in tandem riding. Whether for the first time on a cycling holiday, day rides or a more adventurous tour, it looks as though there is a major growth of interest in amongst our younger demographic.” “The interest in tandem riding has been, and I suspect will always be, closely linked with the interest in cycling as a whole in the UK. The British Olympic and Paralympic successes together with the already buoyant leisure cycling industry suggests that the future continues to look bright for tandem riders across the country.” Now with most bike hire businesses having at least one tandem in their fleet that you can try out, as well as tandem specialists, such as JD Tandems – there is always the opportunity to have-a-go. Many new couples joining the Tandem Club say this is how they got interested in the idea of riding a bike together. Stoker: 25 years (initially as a child on the back of my parents old bike)
Name: Pilot: William Clive Stoker: Milly Clive Age: Pilot: 34 Stoker: 33 Number of years riding solo: Pilot: 28 years Stoker: 4 years Number of years riding tandem: Pilot: 4 years
How long have you been riding together: Since 2009 How and where did you get into tandem riding: We were planning a cycle touring trip around Central Asia and wanted to find a way of making it a truly shared experience and a team effort. We were inspired by Milly’s parents’ stories of ‘credit-card’ tandem touring around France in the 1970s on their 3 speed 1940s bike.
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TANDEM TIME | CYCLE TOURS
TANDEMS COMING TO THE WEST Hundreds of tandem cyclists from all over the UK and other countries will be descending on Somerset this summer for the UK Tandem Club’s 2013 National Rally. The Rally, which takes place in Lympsham near Weston-super-Mare on 10 – 17 August, will be the largest gathering of tandems this year. During the Rally, groups of tandems will be seen every day across North Somerset exploring places as far afield as Frome, Taunton and Bristol. Riders will be enjoying the flat countryside of the Somerset Levels as well as climbing the Mendips and discovering the delights of the Bristol Channel coastline. The Tandem Club UK, which is affiliated to the UK Cyclists Touring Club (CTC), is the only club specifically for people who ride bikes designed for two or more people. Tandem cycling is currently enjoying a boom in popularity, with sales of new and second-hand tandems breaking records as people discover how cycling together increases their enjoyment. No-one gets left behind. The view on the back is surprisingly good for the “stoker”, while the “captain” or “pilot” on the front steers and controls the gears and brakes. Both have to help balance but there are stokers who have never learned to ride an ordinary bike. Tandems are also a wonderful way for disabled and partially-sighted or blind cyclists to take part in an outdoor activity otherwise closed to them. Every year the Tandem Club hosts a UK National Rally and an International Rally to give members the chance to explore new areas. Over the years the Club has visited several European countries and many parts of the UK, but this is the first time for several years the Rally returns to Somerset. Members of the Club come from all ages and levels of experience, from families who enjoy cycling together to couples just starting. A few members have owned the same tandem for many years; in one case, ever since they were married more than 50 years ago! For more information, contact Jane Termini Taylor on email@example.com or Peter Weeks on firstname.lastname@example.org 0117 9686010 / 07730 925759 Web: http://tandem-club.org.uk
What bike do you ride? Steel framed Santana Fusion SE with S and S couplings What is your favourite ride? We love cycle touring on our tandem and have done a few trips around Europe, the US and further afield. Our biggest and most exciting tour was to Tajikistan where we spent 5 weeks following the Pamir Highway along the Afghan border and through the Wakhan corridor. It’s testament to our tandem that it stood up to the challenge of the old, poorly maintained (and in some instances, non-existent) gravel roads. The highlights of the trip included the breath-taking panoramas of the Hindu Kush and the Pamir plateau and the staggering remoteness, but most of all the amazing hospitality of the locals.
Credit: Tandem Club
Credit: Tandem Club
How often do you get out on your tandem? We have previously done a couple of tours per year, although our 6 week old son has curtailed that for now. We are busy saving up for a bike trailer so he can join us on our next adventure. Stoker, news from the back- what’s it like as the stoker of the team? I like to keep Will in check- a pat on the back when he’s doing well and a jab in the ribs when he’s going too fast downhill. In 5 words sum up tandem riding for you.... Good test of a relationship!
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TANDEM TIME | CYCLE TOURS
Expert Advice : Brakes and Braking This month John and Ruth Hargreaves, from JD Tandems, offer expert advice on stopping … Many people have strong views on the subject of brakes on tandems, whether it be for personal preference or to ensure that you have a bulletproof set up. At the end of the day it’s all about making sure that you feel in control and have the stopping power to cope with any eventuality. When it comes to a tandem’s brakes, Ruth and John would always recommend setting up the bike with three brakes. This would ideally include a system of two rim brakes and one disc brake or two disc brakes and one rim brake. The rear rim brake would be used as a parking brake or as a backup so that you have plenty of stopping power to spare if one of the others fails. This is a standard set up on any Orbit Tandem, and many other new tandems The quality of braking technology has been transformed over the last 20 years. Where once you’d have a drag brake fitted to the back wheel and two rim brakes – you’d often find that all three would be needed to stop the bike. Luckily enough, this is no longer the case. So, what are the options? Cable pull disc brakes Cable pull disc brakes are a really popular choice with tandem riders. They are operated using a standard brake cable, with either a pear or barrel nipple, and a tandem length cable for the rear. Each brake kit contains the caliper, disc mount and rotor. They are light weight, relatively inexpensive and the cable is easy to adjust and replace. Running a disc brake as a main brake has the advantage of not creating any heat build-up in the rim. They can also be dragged for longer than a hydraulic disc brake without overheating. Disc brakes
must not, however, be controlled by a friction lever as they require rider feel to operate them safely. Recommended makes of disc brakes could include Tektro , Avid and Bengal, priced between £50 and £85 per unit. Hydraulic disc brakes Hydraulic disc brakes are easy to control. Developed initially for mountain biking and providing two finger braking with a very progressive feel, the hydraulics provide a very powerful braking system. The drawback with hydraulics is that they don’t like to be dragged over long periods, but are a great choice for those wanting to ride off road. A favourite hydraulic disc brake system used at JD Tandems is the Hope V4, which uses a vented rotor to dissipate more heat.
spokes are under greater tension in order to align the centre of the hub to the rim, making the wheel slightly less strong. Rim brakes These are exactly as you would find on a solo bike clamping around the rim of each wheel to slow and control speed. For pure stopping power, good rim brakes, properly adjusted and maintained, can stop a tandem as well as they can a solo bike.
Rotor size disc brakes Where at all possible, Ruth and John would recommend rotors over 200mm in size, or even larger. The larger the rotor the greater the power of the brake and the more efficient the dissipation of heat. However, the size of the rotor on any bike is determined by the spacing on the frame or fork. If it’s not possible to fit a 200mm rotor then it might be better to use this disc brake as a backup rather than as a main brake.
So if modern brakes are so efficient, why recommend three on a tandem?
Disc brakes on the rear Fitting a rear disc brake as a main brake is popular; providing a lot more brake power on the rear of a tandem than you can on a solo bike before the wheel locks. Disc brakes on the front Front disc brakes also work well, however there are two slight drawbacks. Firstly, disc brakes exert a lot of force on the fork which therefore needs to be stiffer. This can create a harsher ride. Secondly, the wheel has to be ‘dished’. This means that one side of the
Above: Orbit Summit XT Below: Rear of the new Orbit Lightning
Two modern brakes whether rim or disc are powerful enough to stop all but the heaviest of teams. But one brake isn’t. If you only have two brakes and one fails then you could very well find yourself walking or in a hedge at the bottom of a hill. For touring teams packed with luggage and riding in hilly areas this third brake can be invaluable when a little more stopping power is required. The third brake is usually cabled up to operate from the front rider’s handlebars. This is because modern brakes are so powerful that inadvertently using both rear brakes at the same time could cause the back wheel to lock up.
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DORSET | TOURS
MOnkEy BOy MEETS SEASIDE kInG Down by the Sandbanks ferry, Scot “Monkey Boy” Whitlock prepares to continue his journey on the Jurassic Coast …
Above: Man o’ War Bay Right: South-West this way, Studland
s I awaited the ferry I got chatting to a friendly young couple who were also out to enjoy the Jurassic Coast by bike. The lad enthusiastically informed me he was taking part in the Land’s End to John O’Groats challenge next summer and did I have any advice. I was possibly the least qualified person to give advice but I provided him with an insight into my indepth knowledge of long distance cycling, offering, to quote, “eat lots”. That was it. My chance to inspire, motivate, enthuse and all I could manage was “eat lots”, pathetic but he appeared bizarrely impressed with my slightly useless information. The ferry journey from Sandbanks was short, but it did give me the briefest
of glances of Brownsea Island, which is located in the middle of Poole Harbour. It has an abundance of diverse wildlife. It’s most famous, however, as the location of the first scout camp organised by Lord Baden Powell, founder of the Scouting movement, in 1907. The association with the scouts remains evident today as they are still officially the only people allowed to camp on the island. As I said farewell to Sandbanks, I remembered that it’s reportedly the most expensive place to live in Europe, figures from 2009 show that a plot of land was being advertised for around £10,000 per square metre. I left the confines of the ferry and stopped by the beach in Studland.
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DORSET | TOURS For somewhere so close to Poole and its expensive suburb, the remoteness was amazing, the sand was golden and thankfully the sun was shining. The isolation provided me with my very own Robinson Crusoe moment, minus the insanity that is. Studland Beach and Nature Reserve is a wonderful section of the natural coastline and the gentle beginning of the jagged Jurassic Coast. The beach is famous for its naturist section and is interesting home to all six of Britain’s reptiles. I passed a sign informing me that there was a high possibility I might encounter naked people beyond this point, the point of no return. Oh joy, I wasn’t keen on seeing an array of crinkly prunes and saggy mounds. I apologise to those of perter physique. Actually, I was apprehensive that I might stumble upon a liberal minded individual with minimal inhibitions happily sat with legs akimbo enjoying the weather. The area was also used as the backdrop for Coldplay’s video for their song ‘Yellow’. The beach is owned by the National Trust and stretches for over three miles and is enhanced by the glorious heathland and stunning sand dunes. I had officially left Southern England and was now firmly entrenched in South West England. The Isle of Purbeck and Jurassic Coast with its evocative sights lay ahead, Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove and a plethora of fairy tale ruins. I couldn’t wait so I pedalled on. I continued to follow the Ferry road and then the road split, Swanage was to the left and Corfe Castle to right, I chose right and was immediately faced with a steep incline. I breezed past the Isle of Purbeck Golf Club and its stunning atmospheric views before I approached the outskirts of Corfe Castle. Two miles out of the village, the Heavens opened with horizontal rain. I sheltered under the largest tree I could find and waited for the deluge to subside. Thankfully, it was only a passing shower
and I set off pedalling the short distance to the mystical village of Corfe Castle. As I entered the village I glimpsed the smoke and accompanying puff of the Swanage Steam Railway which provides a six mile trek through the wonderful scenery between Swanage, Corfe Castle and Norden. I was now deep in “Famous Five” country. Corfe Castle is a magical and mysterious village which is completely dominated by its iconic ruins set ominously on the hill overlooking the quaint main street. I locked the bike outside the nostalgic railway station and went to investigate. There was plenty on offer, tea rooms, gift shops and some wonderful traditional drinking establishments. It was busy with sightseers but wasn’t intrusive. I was drawn to the delights of the Ginger Pops Shop which is dedicated to the world of Enid Blyton. The building, I read, was amazingly constructed from recycled castle, that’s quality green ethos but be warned you may miss it as it shares its entrance with the local Post Office. It is believed that the castle in the village is the inspiration for Kirrin Castle which features in the much loved ‘Famous Five’ series of books. The shop proudly claims to stock all the books
every written by the author. There was a plethora of memorabilia, souvenirs, toys and games. I enjoyed a lovely coffee in a quaint cafe conveniently opposite Ginger Pops. The weather was now gloriously sunny. I spoke with my support crew and arranged to meet them in Swanage as I was desperate to take a trip back in time on a lovingly restored steam locomotive. So, I set off on a journey through the Dorset Countryside on the Swanage Railway. The service does allow the transportation of bikes but I wanted to return to Corfe Castle for two reasons; it was a convenient location to access the next part of my journey and, selfishly, it gave the chance to experience the nostalgia for a second time. My limited experience of steam railways has always been enjoyable and they seem to evoke so many traditions and passions, but once you are on the train I find it irrelevant if it’s a steam or a diesel locomotive. Is that just me? OK, there is the lovely aroma of the smoke (who cares about the carbon footprint) and the glorious heart melting sound of the engine, but I feel the best way to experience its full glory is from the platform, bridge or anywhere not on
Top Right: Swanage seafront Right: Ginger Pops, Corfe Castle Far Right: Durdle Door
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DORSET | TOURS
the train. I promise you I am not reverting to the dark side of the dreaded train spotter. The train left the village as the weather appeared to change again, angry dark clouds had materialised. The route took us through Harmans Cross, Herston and eventually we arrived in a sun drenched Swanage twenty-two minutes later. This part of the world was like a second home to me when I was growing up. We frequently set off from home when the urge was strong and decamped at my Uncles and Aunties who were always most welcoming. The idyllic surroundings have been the inspiration for many writers and artists, especially Blyton and Hardy and it it’s easy to see why they were in awe of the beautiful countryside. I wanted to replicate my childhood experiences, rock pooling in secluded inlets and eating jam sandwiches covered in salty sand, obviously not the days spent in bed recovering from the effects of sun stroke. Swanage is an endearing town, it oozed a wonderful rustic charm today, but it also rumbled with a surprising modern and vibrant core. The place was packed with tourists. I visited the town’s small but interesting and informative museum, gloriously set on the seafront looking over the pier and cliff tops. There were some lovely displays about quarrying and the history of the town which succinctly explained how Swanage’s tradition of stone quarrying has been continuous for 2,000 years. The idyllic surroundings appeared to provide a stream of local artists with inspiration. Personally, I found their creative assurance a little annoying. I met my parents, who had also utilised the services of the Swanage Railway. We
stopped for a cheap coffee on the seafront, chatted animatedly about nothing in particular before the topic of my bike came into the conversation. My mother was extremely concerned that she could not recall seeing my bike in the designated parking area of the station. She became agitated, it must be her age. It transpired that my parents had in fact got on the train at Norden, just north of Corfe Castle, so it was no wonder that the bike was not in situ. Crazy lady! We travelled back together. The train reminded me so much of The Hogwarts Express. I’m not sure which of us was supposed to be Ronald Weasley. I alighted at Corfe Castle and waved my companions farewell whilst holding my bike aloft to appease my mother. I left Corfe Castle feeling positive about what lay ahead. I pedalled past the Castle en route to Durdle Door. I would have to negotiate East and West Lulworth. Hindsight is a great thing, but I now recall seeing - but at the time it didn’t register that I had read it - a sign stating that the roads around Lulworth were closed, due to firing taking place on the MOD ranges. It wasn’t until I had trekked up the rather substantial Creech Hill that I established the route down to Durdle Door was blocked. As a minor consolation the views were stunning and peace was only sporadically interrupted by the surprisingly loud, vivid and thought provoking sound of gunfire. It was so similar to what I had heard on the TV during reports from Afghanistan or Iraq, but to experience it first hand and not from the confines of my sofa was slightly unnerving. My only option was a considerable detour north towards Wareham before
Above: Creech Hill, unintentional viewpoint Below: Resort of Royalty; Queen Victoria’s Jubilee clock, Weymouth
retracing my way back to the sea via West Holme. Time was now ticking on. As I approached Durdle Door, I was apprehensive; I didn’t want to experience the annoying feeling of disappointment or deflation. I had read several passionate accounts on the natural phenomenon but I wanted to experience it and decide for myself. If you were to ask a primary school child to describe Durdle Door from a picture, they would state “It’s a big rock with a big hole that sticks out into the sea.” In simple terms that’s what it is, but trust me it’s so much more than that.
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DORSET | TOURS
After a steady climb out of West Lulworth and a rather rapid descent through a holiday park, I was sat happily on the cliff top high above the sea and Durdle Door. My initial reaction was astonishment, the aesthetics of the view were unmatchable; the glorious golden hues wonderfully complimented by the brilliant blue sea and the sharp shadows cast by the stunning jagged rock formation. It could easily be attributed to Gaudi. “Astonishing” was so apt, but the good weather helped. It felt a strange and mysterious place. The track down mapped a precariously intricate line into the jagged cliff. I clambered steadily down the shaded rocks to the enticing beach and stripped off, only my socks and shoes, (you will be glad to know). I had an uncontrollable urge to admire it from the inviting water. The sea was calm, translucent, but slightly chilly; but that was all irrelevant as I paddled out and glimpsed back towards the jagged atmospheric coastline. The experience was mesmerising, but also I had managed to successfully tick off another task. Rosie, small daughter, would be pleased but I needed proof. There was a lack of people able to offer help, so my only option was to stand in the salty, indigo layered water, with camera at arms-length and snap away. I hoped Rosie would be pleased but more importantly convinced! (The children set me tasks to complete for them whilst touring.) As I clambered back up the rock face, I stopped to admire the Man of War Bay which was located on the other side of the headland. It was another awesome
geological site, the stunning cove was wonderfully enhanced by the shining Portland stone creating a warm golden from the rays of the sun. It officially called St Oswald’s Bay but the Man of War Bay is so much more appropriate. I continued my journey through Winfrith Newburgh before I turned onto the A352 and pedalled west, next stop Weymouth. Near the village of Osmington I passed a white horse set into the hillside, it was sculpted in 1808 and depicts the figure of King George III. The figure actually stands 280 feet long and 323 feet high, and was significantly restored by the ‘Challenge Anneka’ TV show in 1989. I stopped on a lovely plateau nearby which afforded me a glorious panorama of Weymouth and its bay. It was George III who helped set the trend for sea-side holidays and Weymouth was his favourite venue for taking in the sea breeze. It appeared that Weymouth had received a rather substantial amount of money since securing its position as a host venue for the 2012 Olympics. A lot of regeneration work had taken place; the Olympic Relief Road had opened, providing easy access to the town amenities and the Olympic sailing venue. I followed the associated NCN 26 off road cycle path alongside the busy bypass, with its elevated views into the bustling town. I pedalled onto the promenade and stopped by the statue of King George III. The surrounding buildings were wonderfully majestic with glorious iron balconies, sash windows and ornate canopies. It gave me a brief glimpse into the town’s heyday when the King happily frolicked and partied in the fresh seaside air. The seafront was clean and presented a wonderful vibrant persona. The Olympics was evident everywhere, on the lampposts, in the windows of shops and restaurants. It was clear that the residents and the town were rightly proud of its selection as a venue. I left the bike securely attached to railings on the beach and went off to explore. Just a short distance down the promenade was the stunningly colourful Queen Victoria Jubilee Clock. It’s believed Weymouth was the actual point where the dreaded Black Death entered Britain in 1348, but there doesn’t seem to be a statue to that. Thankfully the town has definitely moved on since then. The harbour and quay were beautiful. The harbour was alive with lots of charter boats which I could only imagine would be a wonderful alternative way to experience the Jurassic Coast. Up until this point I had made no definite plans to attend any of the Olympic events. The TV was the nearest I was prepared to get to the games, but after my brief immersion in glorious Weymouth, I
Top Left: Firing time, look and listen Below: Corfe Castle, simple bicycle parking
was feeling the need to rethink my plans. The town had definitely made an effort to grasp the Olympic ethos and use it as a tool to regenerate the whole area and its services. It definitely empowered me to get more involved; not physically - I wouldn’t be setting the pace for Cavendish on Box Hill, regardless how many times I imagined it. It’s good to have dreams. But depending on my meagre cash flow and availability I might consider attending an event. Ultimately I realised I liked the sentiment of the games. Countries from across the globe, some even unknown to me, happily send their best athletes to take part with absolutely no chance of success, but the national pride they display is awe inspiring and reflects their commitment to their individual sport and their Country. From what I had encountered in Weymouth, the town, its facilities and infrastructure will not disappoint and will provide a fitting and memorable spectacle in honour of the dedication shown by all the athletes. Unfortunately due to time constraints I didn’t manage to get down to the Olympic sailing venue as planned but I wished them luck and I hoped the games would be a fitting event which puts Weymouth firmly on the World map. It truly deserves it. The campsite was located a couple of cycle path miles west of the town centre. I got lost, which appears to be the norm, but I did allow me to see the lovely, slightly eerie church in Fleet. Another early night was greatly appreciated as I was expecting some arduous climbing tomorrow. Well there’s a surprise.
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ALPINE COLS | TOURS
NICE, ISN’t It? Marco Beurskens solves the male mid-life crisis …
Above: Col de la Bonette
You turn forty and you want something else. It doesn’t have to be faster and lighter. At a certain age you don’t become faster and lighter yourself, at least for most of us.“ These were the thoughts which popped up in my mind when I saw the beautiful lines of a Vanhulsteijn bike in a glossy magazine. Wow! A Vanhulsteijn? Not an established brand such as Specialized or Giant, nor is it an Italian masterpiece like Pinarello or Da Rosa. An ordinary Dutch family name out of thousands: Vanhulsteijn. The website was soon found and I’m hooked. The bikes were designed with the elegance of the first French vélos of the 19th century, the looks of a classic road bike and the appearance of a stylish piece of art. The website showed fixies with peculiar handlebars and quirky colours. No carbon, aerodynamic wheels or super light components; instead, a lot of classic chrome. One bicycle had a derailleur and a
traditional curved road bar; only one. Now, I didn’t want to use my new purchase merely to ride around the Dutch polders. I wanted to conquer the mountains, preferably as high as possible. My cycling plans for the year were already set; a bike tour with Bike-Dreams; from Como to Nice over ten famous Alpine passes and, just for good measure riding on from Nice to Barcelona through Provence and the Pyrenees. All the famous names in one go: Col du Galibier, Mont Ventoux, Col du Tourmalet, Grand St. Bernard, l’Alpe d’Huez, Col de la Bonette, Col d’Aubisque and a lot of other mountains in between. Three thousand kilometres in total with over 54,000 challenging metres of elevation gain. A single-speed bike would result immediately in a triple knee fracture or an incurable muscle rupture. Gears were rather desirable, if not essential. What about a Rohloff hub? I had heard and read many positive stories, but I had never
cycled with the much revered Rohloff myself. I decided to visit Vanhulsteijn, in Arnhem, to find out more about the possibilities and to see and touch “my new love”. Vanhulsteijn is located in a small shop where the showroom and the workshop are one. There is no space to display the bicycles beautifully and there is no time to window dress. Herman van Hulsteijn was busy. Busy with hís bike. He told me his story, briefly. He drew a picture of the bike on a beer mat four years ago in a pub. He built a prototype and he cycled throughout the city. The effect was bizarre. “Everywhere I went, I saw people staring or taking pictures. I really noticed that the design enthused people. I used to work as an industrial designer and made mainly furniture. I dropped all my other design ideas and started to concentrate completely on the bike and bringing it to perfection.“ I told him of my rather cheeky plans to
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ALPINE COLS | TOURS
Top Right: Mont Ventoux Right: Simplon Pass
cycle the highest Alps and Pyrenees passes with his bike, preferably equipped with a Rohloff hub. He looked quizzically and admitted that he hadn’t any experience with the German speedhub, but he would like to give it a go. Taking a test ride through the streets of Arnhem on an original Vanhulsteijn, a singlespeed with lightly bent handlebars and short brakes felt strange. The riding position was short, which makes the steering a little nervous. The frame bounced slightly, but not annoyingly. I floated. It was not comparable to riding a road bike or mountain bike. As soon as I stopped the feeling of floating ended with a thump. My crotch landed incredibly hard on the curved top tube, which is positioned much higher than at a road or mountain bike. I slid ten inches forward and the problem is solved; something to get used to very quickly. Everything was a little bit different: getting on the bike, the position, the steering and stopping. It’s a completely alien experience - but a nice one. It was cycling with an added dimension. After the first short test ride, we discussed my specific requirements. I even considered wooden rims. The frames are completely hand-made from high quality stainless steel and at the final assembly there is plenty of room for individualism. You can be one hundred per cent sure that there is nothing like your Vanhulsteijn anywhere else in the world. The wooden rims were too delicate. What would happen if I had to descend a wet or icy mountain pass in the Alps over the next few months? My body length and inside leg length were measured to determine the size of the frame. The bikes are manufactured in five sizes: XS, S, M, L and XL. Vanhulsteijn could get started and he says that he will call me when the bike is ready. The installation of the first Rohloff hub gave him some headaches, but finally Vanhulsteijn succeeds and delivers my dream bike just before my crusade through the Alps and Pyrenees. A particularly remarkable bike, knowing that up to now only 70 Vanhulsteijns have been produced, none of them with a Rohloff hub. I used the first flat rides around my home town to tune the bike and to get accustomed to it. I replaced the original slightly bent handlebars with completely straight bars to calm the nervous steering. Additionally, I fixed bar ends so that I am able to change the position of my hands and to make it easier to stand on the pedals. I attached a double bottle cage behind the saddle as there was nowhere else a suitable to put it. This gave the Vanhulsteijn a triathlon look and created an unwanted expectation of speed. I took a longer tour through the south of
The Netherlands, a route dotted with short, steep hills to test all the gears of the Rohloff hub. The shifting was smooth, although it took time to get used to the 7-8 and 8-7 gear, which acts under force, making it slightly more difficult than all other transitions. It was a known characteristic of the speedhub, and I am more than satisfied. It’s soon clear that I don’t need all gears, since the range of the hub is much larger than my road bike. I am ready for the Alps and Pyrenees! After not more than 300 kilometres over mostly flat Dutch roads, I left for
Italy. Upon arrival in Como I, or rather my Vanhulsteijn, attracted very surprised looks and lots of comments from my forty fellow cyclists from all over the world, especially the Australians. “Hi mate, what’s that kind of bike?” My answer: “Nice, isn’t it?” or “Isn’t it sexy?” In astonishment mixed with not a little disbelief they admired the eccentric bike. It was on the morning of Monday, June 4th, that we headed northward along the banks of Lake Como. After thirtyfive relatively flat kilometres the road
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ALPINE COLS | TOURS
wound upward at seven per cent for some three kilometres, rising high above the blue of Lake Como. Everyone cycled at their own pace, but I kept up reasonably well, with my Vanhulsteijn, in the second group, even though my steel master piece was certainly not the lightest bike. Steel is not ultra-light carbon and the weight of the Rohloff hub is not comparable with the high-end Campagnolo, Shimano or Sram groupsets. On the climb above Menaggio, I was surrounded by the most advanced carbon frames and rattling derailleurs. Despite
Above: Col du Tourmalet Below: Col du Galibier
the heavier weight, I left a handful of gears unused, while many others were already close to the biggest cog. The stage continued along Lago di Lugano and Lago Maggiore, before finishing, after 128 kilometres, just north of Locarno. It was the first time I have done more than a metric century with the Vanhulsteijn, but I can’t complain. The straight bar and the bar ends have had the desired effect. The steering behaviour has been more stable and I can stand on the pedals if I want to. The speed may not be as fast, but the pleasure is certainly the
greatest. The sweat of my brow disappears with the light hum of the Rohloff hub and the gentle bounce of the frame. The little bounce could be interpreted as an inefficient loss of power, but I prefer to see it as aesthetic and physical comfort. I cruised comfortably along the lakes and enjoy the views and picturesque Italian-Swiss villages. Content and without troubles I turn into the camp. The second day had the first serious climb of the tour; the Simplon Pass between Italy and Switzerland, reaching 2005 metres above sea level. It is one of the few Alpine passes kept open in wintertime. The wide road is never really steep which makes the pass popular with larger trucks. Fortunately, the road was not busy and the few heavy vehicles were not too bad, so we enjoyed, once again, waterfalls, lush green alpine meadows and snow-capped mountains, in relative peace. During the twenty kilometre climb I didn’t have to push myself and felt that I could anticipate the rest of the journey with confidence. A car with a caravan passed me a few kilometres before the top. The car reduced speed, the window opened and I heard in unadulterated Dutch “Hey, a Vanhulsteijn!” They stop at the roadside to take pictures and wait later at the top for a chat. The elderly couple live near Arnhem and they recognized my remarkable bicycle from pictures in the local media. They had seen a few people in Arnhem on “such a thing”, but they didn’t expect to see it at the top of the Simplon Pass. Two days later we returned to Italy via
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ALPINE COLS | TOURS the Col du Grand St. Bernard, at a height of 2,469 metres. It is probably one of the toughest major cols in the Alps, thirty kilometres long with the final six kilometres with a gradient between eight and ten per cent. The Rohloff hub had more than enough gears and after nearly three hours of climbing I floated between thick cold clouds. The temperature varies around freezing near the top, which did not make the initial descent great fun. I was delighted that I had not chosen wooden wheels, which would have been polished at once on the wet, slippery asphalt. Fortunately, the conditions on the Col de Petit St Bernard (2,188 m) and Col de l’Iseran (2,770 m) were a lot more pleasant. The chrome of the Vanhulsteijn glittered in the sun and it enjoyed itself in optima forma. During the long descents and steep climbs I didn’t experience major problems. The bike was definitely not as stiff as a normal road bike, but I never felt that the frame was slack. We were very lucky that we could climb the Col de l’Iseran, because the pass had been opened just two days before. This was in contrast to the lower Col du Galibier (2645 m) where the last kilometre to the top was draped in a thick layer of snow. The motorized traffic was obliged to take the tunnel, which is 100 metres lower than the pass. We cyclists wanted, of course, to reach the top and use our bike shoes with SPD, Look, and Time as glorified
crampons. Several other cycling groups were at the top. It is a real cycling Mecca, and the graceful curves of my Vanhulsteijn grab the attention as much as the spectacular views over the Massif de Écrins. During the climb of l’Alpe d’Huez I passed a stout cyclist, in his early fifties, on a Colnago Ferrari CF7. A bike produced in a limited edition of only ninety-nine, and with a price tag that would fit very well on a new car. I realised that my Vanhulsteijn with Rohloff hub cost only a fraction of the CF7 - and it is unique. On arrival in the ski-resort, my bike got the usual attention and curious looks. Fifteen minutes later the Ferrari rider rolls up gasping for breath. Fortunately, there was nobody around who wanted to ask the man questions while he recovers from his efforts. He told me that the CF7 was designed by the best engineers in the most advanced laboratories of Colnago and Ferrari. The Vanhulsteijn was invented, developed and manufactured by one person; all in a simple workshop and with a minimum of resources. A creative mind can do wonders. On the remaining cols towards Nice things continued as they had begun. Many people were interested in the unusual design and I posed regularly with my arched, steel creation. We sat on a terrace in Barcelonnette to watch the European Football Championship, the eyes of many supporters strayed away from the television screen to the Vanhulsteijn. Nor was it only
cycling enthusiasts who showed an interest. When I explained to a few people that my plan was to climb the Cime de la Bonette with “that thing”, they looked completely dumbfounded. I knew it wasn’t swank, the Vanhulsteijn could bring me to the top at 2.802 metres. The weather conditions were ideal the next day and the summit was another rendezvous for international cyclists. It was the same ritual as at most other cols: put on a windstopper, tell your cycling friends how difficult or easy it was, take a photo of the sign and, of course, a picture where you lift your bike in the air with the biggest smile you can produce. As soon as the cyclists notice the Vanhulsteijn, some forgot the usual photos and their attention was givenover to the unusual machine. The responses varied from “C’est ridicule” to “Wunderbar” and from “What a bizarre bike” to “Fantastisch”. My reply is usually “Nice, isn’t it?” The second part of my Bike-Dreams tour through the Pyrenees and Provence passed off smoothly and without problems. The ride on the Vanhulsteijn remained relaxed, the Rohloff hub functioned beautifully and I continued to enjoy riding a bike that was often the centre of attention. Cycling has given me a new dimension. It doesn’t have to be faster and lighter. Certainly not after your fortieth when you have Vanhulsteijn.
Below: Col du Galibier
www.vanhulsteijn.com www.rohloff.de www.bike-dreams.com
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in a pickle E
mily O’ Brien is a remarkable woman who thinks nothing of riding “Archie”; her beloved 1974 Raleigh professional fixed gear conversion, several hundred miles at a time, munching on dill pickles and composing witty limericks. She’s also a music teacher who manufacturers handmade luggage capable of passing her own rigorous testing regime. Michael Stenning moseys on over in cyberspace for a chat with the mile munching lady from Medford Massachusetts.
Michael Stenning (MS) So, Emily,
Dill Pickle Store, homage to your favourite source of sodium: care to elaborate?
Emily O’Brien (EOB) I was actually fairly ambivalent about pickles until I
encountered them on the snack table at a brevet, and discovered that on a long, hot ride they tasted AMAZING. If it’s hot, I like to bring a bag of them with me. (I should mention that the pickles in question are kosher dill pickles, which are quite common over here). I can’t comment on the UK; but the pickles I found while living in Germany were very different, less salty, and yet not nearly so sweet as French cornichons. I also prefer an organic, as opposed to tablet sources of sodium. If pickles just taste “meh” your levels are probably fine but they taste fantastic when your body needs electrolytes.
(MS) Family history is something of a preoccupation these days (I have discovered one set of 19th century forbearers on my mother’s side were
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INTERVIEW brewers. A more puritanical group responded by establishing a successful soft drinks factory!). Does your love of limericks result from a ancestral connection with Ireland, or is this purely coincidental?
(EOB) I have at most 25% Irish ancestry,
and that side of the family is pretty far removed from it, so I think it’s coincidental. I like puns, I like off-color humor, and I have a good memory for things that rhyme. When I’ve been on my bike so long I’m getting sleepy, and I don’t have anyone to talk to or can’t think of anything to talk about, it’s helpful to have stuff to recite to keep myself awake. Therefore I tap into a big mental collection of limericks, songs with lots of verses, and other assorted less-thanprofound recitation material. “On brevets one may come to a junction Marked by moderate mental malfunction So instead of a break We try to stay awake Making jokes about bodily function.”
(MS) No surprise to learn you’re an avid
life long cycling devotee. I was bitten by the bug proper having acquired a second hand five-speed sports bike for £16 as a shy twelve year old. Encouraged by a local builder with an old Mal Rees road bike, I rode said Junker with crumbling drivetrain ever greater distances until finally persuading my father that I’d cultivated sufficient mechanical sympathy to deserve a much coveted Holdsworth built Claud Butler. Who, or indeed what introduced you to cycling and around what age?
(EOB) Growing up in Washington DC,
sometime during fourth, maybe fifth grade, I realized it was less effort to ride, rather than walk to school. My father had been an avid cyclist and my Mom commuted round town sometimes so it was hardly a foreign concept. Riding through the city offered me a sense of autonomy and freedom that suburban kids don’t get until they learn to drive. High school brought scheduled activities based in varying corners of the city, which would’ve been pretty impractical to attend using public transport and driving was equally impractical-even if I’d learned. I don’t hold a driver’s license. Individually, my parents took me for longer, occasionally overnight rides but cycling held a firmly utilitarian tone until I went to college and lived much nearer campus. Recreational rides became progressively longer to achieve the same “high” and I raced for several years without crashing but quit since spills are inevitable-sooner or later.
(MS) From your website its very clear, (like myself and countless enthusiasts)
you’ve a fair fleet of bikes and I’m a firm believer that someone’s winter/working bike is the metaphorical window to their soul. How many machines do you own?
(EOB) Like many enthusiasts, this will
depend on how you count. Aside from a host of framesets and full to overflowing spares bins, I run a fixed gear Surly cross check commuter, “Archie”; my beloved 1974 Raleigh Professional who serves as my recreational, weekend and distance steed. Then there’s a 1972 Raleigh with variable gears who does loaded/dirt road touring and a geared Fuji team issue, who retired from racing but does the occasional roller session. Elsewhere, there’s a Jamis Hardtail mountain bike stored at my Dad’s and a Centurion fixer to scoot round town on when I’m visiting. My better half is also a cyclist and coincidently the same size, so aside from his varied fleet we share an ANT basket bike, a Bike Friday folder and a hybrid with Xtracycle cargo attachment.
(MS) Tell us about your favourite steed, route(s) and what makes them so special to you? I empathise with your love of long, steady miles on the fixer. Many in this age of variable gears will view this sceptically, care to elaborate a little further- Do you find the perpetual momentum helps during randonees or were you just going through too many chains cassettes (!) ? (EOB) Without a doubt, Archie (1974
Raleigh Professional) is my favourite- he fits well and is really responsive, yet comfortable over long hauls. Randonnees on a fixed came down to serendipity. I wanted to ride a double century but my road bike was awaiting a new fork. So, I chose a relatively flat route and set out on the fixed. This worked for me, so became my default option for longer solo/winter club rides. Summer came along and I felt no inclination to revert. Then a race called “The Furnace Creek 508” came under my radar. Positive feedback coupled with the introduction of a specific category for fixed gear entrants proved too good an opportunity to pass up. Aside from a few solo 250 milers, the 508 was my first long distance event. Smitten, I entered my local Brevet series and the now sadly defunct, Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200k. For several years I toyed with building a geared Brevet ride but nothing came of it and so long as I’m having fun, feeling good and making the times why fix what ain’t broke?” That said; it would be nice if a fixed helped with sleep deprivation but it doesn’t. I’d never argue its superior to variable gears but I’m accustomed to and like my bike this way. Picking a favourite is hard but the “Endless Mountains 1000k” in Eastern Pennsylvania and touring through Rocky
Mountain National Park with my partner, Jake, really stand out. The latter involved a spectacular mountain ascent with sixty miles descending, accentuated by prevailing tailwind-the cyclist’s wet dream.
(MS) Despite changing attitudes, not to mention greatly improved access to properly fitting bikes, clothing and components, there remains a curious public perception that cycling of a competitive nature is dangerousunfeminine even. How do you feel about this statement? Have you ever felt subjected to highway harassment on account of your gender and how have you dealt with it? (EOB) Something of a moot point really,
since men’s kit fits me better and I choose my equipment according to personal taste and leave others to worry about gender. I’ve never encountered barriers to participation or encountered any hostility.. As far as highway harassment goes, remember that your average redneck thinks that Lance Armstrong in his Discovery kit looks like a complete fairy. I think that a lot of the time, unless you have obvious pigtails or an exceptionally girly cycling outfit, you just look like a generic weirdo in spandex. If it’s dark, all they see are lights and reflectors, and you look like a UFO. Anyway, the most common and likely road hazards are things like loose dogs and drunk drivers and idiots on cell phones, none of which care what gender you are. I object on principle to the notion that its fine for a man to ride alone through the back of beyond anytime he pleases but not a woman; I do as I please and don’t lie awake at night fretting about femininity.
(MS) What (if anything) do you believe are the biggest barriers to women’s wider participation within cycling whether, competitive, social, touring or indeed utility riding. Given free rein, what would you do to address these? (EOB) I’ve never encountered any barriers.
I’m used to being the token woman but never encountered any hostility. Sure bike shops can be condescending, although it’s difficult to say whether this is genuinely sexist or a more generic contempt towards customers. Occasionally men will offer me unsolicited advice on a ride, though usually they’re the sort knowing everything about nothing. A classic example being the sort who draws alongside on the climbs and starts explaining how gears work; ignorant to the fact I’m riding fixed(!). I doubt very much they’d be so forthcoming were I man in his fifties! I’d love to see more people on Brevets but am stumped as to how you’d effectively challenge public perception that being in the saddle non-stop for thirty-six hours
www.cyclingworldmag.com | Cycling World 89
INTERVIEW is absolute purgatory. Taking a wider view, I long for cycling to be regarded as a normal, everyday form of transport and for us to be less preoccupied with rumpled clothes/flushed faces. I recognize this is a harder sell for women in corporate/office contexts. Driver education and improved urban planning, coupled with upgraded infrastructure generally would benefit everyone.
define myself as a natural entrepreneur but know the life of a corporate drone isn’t for me.
source your materials locally too? Have you ever been approached by a big name brand to create on a bespoke range for them?
(MS) What was your first mod(ification),
(EOB) As a rough n’ ready we’re talking
(MS) What would you say have been your highest moments in the saddle and on the flip side, your lowest and why?
the story behind it and what specifically led you along the luggage/accessory route as distinct from say clothing, or indeed, frame building? I notice you’ve made some jackets- are we expect further expansion into these genres? Given Archie must get through a fair few tyres, would it not be easier to recycle these as fender mud-flaps?
(EOB) I was riding home from a music
(EOB) Can’t recall my first “mod” but
festival, having partied pretty hard the night (err, week) before, when I realized I’d sent my wallet along with luggage that a friend was driving home for me. All I had to hand was a Clif bar and about $2 stuffed in my jersey pocket to get me 150 mi across Massachusetts, over the hills and on a fixed gear. Then of course, my saddle disintegrated and had to be bodged with folding paper to avoid sitting atop its hard moulded plastic base. Sixty miles from home, morale collapsed and I phoned Jake. Collecting me would mean a trip to the car hire company, several hours driving and considerable expense, so I ploughed on and made it home. Since then, every time I hit a low, memories of that ride spur me on. Obviously, there have been other times when I’ve felt rough, frustrated, vomited over my bike etc but that particular weekend was something of a milestone moment. There have been so many highs. Some of the biggest being completing the 508 and 1200ks but cycling is one of those activities that’s deeply enjoyable on a mundane level- spectacular views, setting sunsets and similar incidentals. Obviously cycling presents challenges but not on an existential crisis level-I know I’ll always make it bar major disaster.
(MS) You come across as a very rounded and capable fettler/craftsperson who likes to retain control over the process start to finish. I have visions of you slaving over a sewing machine creating one off designs for friends and club mates, working day jobs to support the venture on an interim basis. How accurate is this and are you a natural entrepreneur, or was this a more serendipitous evolution? (EOB) A little of column A and a little
of column B, maybe? I’ve always loved experimenting and have honed my skills through trial and error. Having used a few over the years, I made some prototypes for our personal consumption. Other people started taking an interest and wanted me to do something similar for them, so I began doing so on a hobby/sideline basis to supplement my income but now I’m putting in three days a week at Dill Pickle. I’d never
luggage seldom met my expectations-either in terms of carrying capacity, longevity or downright stupid design flaws that convince me they were never tested as pre-production prototypes. Clothing inspires similar frustrations but I hate having to think about my clothes- it comes with a host of other metaphorical baggage such as fit/ sizing/ fashion and my own negative connotations. Luggage appeals to my love of function and continuously improving things. While I’ve no doubt I could produce excellent jackets, jerseys or messenger bags I’d rather be concentrating on widening choice in a meaningful way. I feel quite drawn to frame building and would love to learn once we’ve secured bigger living space. Racks and similar attachments are another, somewhat logical avenue for me to pursue. There are lots of cool systems but many put form before function or add unnecessary weight/ complication to accomplish their purpose.
(MS) I was once at a cyclo cross meet and
happened upon an extremely bijous junior mount that I learned had been built from scrap Peugeot framesets, dressed in leftover acrylic paint and parts from the spares bin. What is the most memorable home brewed creation/solution for you?
(EOB) That’s another hard question,
because as a general rule, I’m rarely seen anywhere without something I’ve either made or modified. The flashiest is probably my commuter bike, which is covered in all different colors of reflective tape, with contrasting-color fake lugs. Before I converted to Quick Release, I had made a pair of brass strips that wrapped around the back of my dropouts to help my wheel stay put and protect the dropouts. On a different tack, I’ve made a serviceable printer from two dead ones and a brass bell key that attaches to an alto recorder, operable with my left pinky. On a standard Baroque alto recorder, there are a couple of notes only achievable by covering said bell with one’s knee. My tweak can be installed/removed without permanent modifications.
(MS) How long does it take you to produce a bag from start to finish- Do you
anything between two and eight hours. Truly bespoke models are more time consuming since they requires a new, sometimes unique pattern. Mud flaps, camera inserts, U lock totes are much quicker. Few materials are procured locally, although all come from within the US. Bottom line I get them where I can and order carefully to rationalize shipping costs. Stock control is one of those surprisingly time consuming “hidden” activities. One of my large saddlebags uses 2-4 different fabrics dependant upon options, ten varieties of plastic hardware, three metal plus matching brass hardware, zippers, webbing, shock cord, drawcord and wooden dowel. This doesn’t take into account colours and other ingredients. To date, the only work outsourced to me by another firm was designing sturdier, sportier equipment cases for diabetic athletes.
(MS) The Internet has revolutionised the way in which we communicate, research and do business. How influential has the web and social media such as facebook and twitter been in the growth of your business? (EOB) Most days I just feel accomplished
if I can keep pace with my emails. Aside from the obvious advantages of ecommerce in terms of reaching niche markets, the Internet certainly helped business since I already had sufficient Google recognition/ credibility from being “that crazy fixed gear chick”. Then there’s the market research angle- keeping an eye out for cool stuff, browsing the forums for pointers, what people use, what they like/dislike etc. My finger should be firmer on the social media pulse-I’m not on twitter but have a facebook page.
(MS) What has been your largest order to date and (naming no names, naturally) where in the world as it headed? What do you think are the biggest potential opportunities for you/your brands and conversely, greatest challenge(s) (EOB) I guess the largest in size was a case
for a Renaissance contrabass recorder, for someone local. Most expensive single custom item was a bespoke recorder gig bag that went to Hawaii. Most expensive total order would be a batch of saddlebags for a local bike shop. The farthest I’ve shipped to is Australia - I don’t think you can get much farther than that. My biggest single project, which took me furthest from my comfort zone wasn’t even an order, it was my sister’s wedding gown.
90 Cycling World | www.cyclingworldmag.com
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INTERVIEW Businesses of this sort are a double edged sword. The greatest advantage being that it accommodates my “other” life as a musician- I can to some extent do things on my terms-no-one’s going to complain about slacking off. On the flip side, I have to remain focused and disciplined. Somewhere down the line, I will need to decide when and how to expand. People don’t recognize there’s a wealth of behind the scenes work that goes into running a small venture, from building websites, photography, marketing and accounting to taking orders. The web provides genuine opportunities in niche markets and there’s a whole ecosystem of small, expert firms who know precisely what’s needed in their field so demand grows accordingly. Niche specialisation allows a small manufacturer to compete with lower priced volume produced by understanding the needs of a very specific end user and being able to respond more flexibly than larger companies.
(MS) Is there a particular demographic/
profile of customer? What’s the strangest request you’ve had from a potential/
customer and have there been any you’ve rejected out of hand?
lovingly crafting cycling wares, what do you think you’d be doing now?
(EOB) I regard Randonneurs, credit card
(EOB) Well, assuming that paramilitary
tourists, longer haul day riders, or anyone else who lives on their bike and needs to carry more than can be fitted in a small seat pack as my primary audience. The wide range of colours/options I offer is particularly attractive to those who’ve gone for custom framesets/liveries. Most responding to my recent customer survey were unsurprisingly male, aged between 40 and 60. Crucially I design and create products for my own purposes and know they’ll work for others doing similar riding. I’ve fashioned cases for all manner of instruments, many of which are unknown outside of music history classes but only declined a few custom requests on the basis of time and in cases where the customer wasn’t really clear what they wanted.
(MS) A patronising schoolteacher once demanded to know what I was hoping to be in life; “Paramilitary socialist dictator” came my subversive retort. If you weren’t
socialist dictatoring were already taken, there’s still my “other life”. My background actually is in music; I play recorder and Baroque flute in early music chamber ensembles and English Country Dance bands. This extends to private tuition/coaching, so Dill Pickle gear is a complimentary means of making this work without being overly reliant upon one income stream.
(MS) OK then, some of our readers will be wanting to place orders. How can they go about this and could you give an approximate shipping costs to the UK? (EOB) Shipping to the UK is around $25, $45, or $60, depending on how fast you want it. At present my site doesn’t calculate international shipping but contact me with your order via email, or the site’s contact form and I will reply stating the total and how to order online.
DILL PICKLE GEAR SMALL SADDLE BAG £90 (£130 INCLUDING IMPORT TAX) Those yearning for classic cotton duck, leather or similar effect are better catered for elsewhere, but Dill Pickle gear’s small saddlebag quickly won my heart with its superb lightweight and moreover weatherproof design that crosses the continent between expandable wedge packs and the iconic clubman’s staple. Lovingly crafted at her home in Medford Massachusetts there’s a wealth of clever features that have evolved from Emily O’Brien’s own considerable experience riding randonnees. Tipping my scales at an impressive 338g it’s fashioned from lightweight but extremely hardy urethane coated 1000 denier Cordura nylon, which resists abrasion and requires little more than
periodic Jey cloth wipe-overs to retain its original lustre. Ours was a very fetching blue/ grey affair with bold retro-reflective detailing, which has a subtle, yet sporty flavour but Emily offers a host of alternatives to suit personal taste and frame livery. Speaking of which, making these to order allows easy additions/ subtractions. For example, a zippered pocket can be fashioned inside the lid, keeping wallets, passports ICE cards essentials segregated and within easy reach. Riders seeking the cleanest, clutter-free compliment to their minimalist road/Audax bike could request internal mesh pockets, although I love their ability to capture bananas, pumps, trade bottles and similar overspill that doesn’t belong beside tubes, tooling or indeed phones/GPS systems. At my request, ours was supplied with heavy- duty camera insert made from closed cell foam encased in a durable nylon pack cloth blessed with a comparably waterproof coating. Nylon shock and polypropylene cords drawn tight, these have kept sensitive camera bodies/
lenses insulated from inclement roads and Mother Nature’s wrath. Needless to say, it’s passed my hosepipe torture test with flying colours. Swaps between bikes are thirty-second affairs, although achieving the desired tension took a few goes to begin with. Firmly in situ, hugging the rails for really sleek effect, there’s been no hint of whip or annoying sway when laden to the gills and sprinting up the climbs, away at the lights, or just bowling along for several consecutive hours. Given the labour involved, £90 plus import tax represents excellent value for money, but it’s a design best appreciated by those who’ve run a few bags and know exactly what works for them. Michael Stenning Verdict: Superlative handcrafted saddlebag and worth every penny. www.dillpicklegear.com
92 Cycling World | www.cyclingworldmag.com
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Journey by bicycle through lore and legend with your guide and storyteller, Andy Hunter Stories: Through stories, travel to the heart and history of the landscape. A story or two along the way each day will include myths, legends, humour and history. Tours: We cycle at a moderate pace which can be adjusted to suit the group, covering 20-30 miles in a day. One week tours in Scotland and Northern England. Regular half-day Edinburgh tours. Sustenance: Stopping at cafes, inns or scenic sites to ensure nourishment for all the senses. “Combination of a brilliant holiday, self-reliance, low carbon, physical challenge, good company, and everything organised” Helen, Newcastle Storybikes, 22 Shandon St, Edinburgh, EH11 1QH Tel: 07762 000 039 www.storybikes.co.uk
portugal | holidays
Nature’s Way : CamiNhos de Natureza Antonio Gavinho explains why he thinks you should take a tour in Portugal’s nature reserves and natural parks …
Portugal is perfect for cycle touring,” begins Antonio, citing much gentle terrain, some mountains, as well as roads with low volumes of traffic, a beautiful landscape and a breath-taking coastline. Throw friendly people and mouth-watering gastronomy and wines and a cycling holiday in Portugal will give
you memories that will last forever. Amongst Antonio’s favourite tours is one on the seemingly endless plains of the Alentejo region; Medieval towns, cosmopolitan cities, broad rivers and a coast with beaches to die for, are best appreciated at the relaxing speed of a bike ride.” He has one important piece of advice, “Bear in mind when choosing your cycling holiday that ... it is a holiday and it should be a pleasant , if challenging, experience - and not a painful one.” “One thing is certain when you go on a cycling holiday you will burn lots calories,” says Antonio. “But fear not,” he adds speedily, “You will be in the right place to recover them. Portugal is well known for its food and wine. When travelling by bicycle, using back roads at low speeds you will stumble upon some hidden secrets, the small village restaurants where the food
is made from fresh, local ingredients and cooked in the old traditional ways.” After the sights and sounds of Portugal’s varied flora and fauna, the tastes of tradition and burning the calories by bike? Antonio’s tours offer a choice of accommodation, “From ‘Turismo Rural’ to five star hotels; you decide if you prefer a cosy farmhouse or the high quality service of a fine star hotel. In any case the comfort is guaranteed.” Antonio pointed out that in many ways Portugal is a little off the beaten track for cyclists from the UK. He thinks its appeal is that, “Cyclists can still enjoy stunning landscapes in places that remain unknown to the majority of tourists.” “As a specialist in nature tours in Portugal, we have the knowledge and experience to show visitors the best of our incredible country,” states Antonio, with a
94 Cycling World | www.cyclingworldmag.com
portugal | holidays good deal of pride. He promises plenty of variety whether you select a road tour or an MTB trip, head for the mountains or stick to the plains, aim for a tough challenge or a gentle voyage of discovery. Another of Antonio’s favourite tours is “The Portuguese Wild Coast.” He describes this is as an “incredible hybrid cycling route along one of the most beautiful sections of Portugal’s long coastline. From the outskirts of Lisbon to the tip off Europe, you’ll discover and admire the natural beauty.” He promises small fishing villages and abandoned fortresses from the time when this coast was ravaged by pirates. The trip finishes at the most westerly point in Europe, Cape Saint Vincent, which adds a dramatic and historical full stop to this wonderful trip. Flexible as ever, Antonio stresses that, “This route can also be done on a Touring Bike or, using more difficult trails, including some single-track, on a MTB.” “Portugal is famous for its 1,200 km of coastline. But within a short distance of wherever you are, you’ll find farmland and vineyards, mountains, valleys, and plains that stretch on for miles. The country’s pristine beaches are ideal for surfing, sailing and swimming, while the interior holds remote landscapes just waiting to be explored.” This is, in Antonio’s view, what makes Portuagl such a special venue for cycle touring. A rider is never far from the sea or the heart of the countryside. Camhinos de Natureza is a new business, aimed mainly at foreign tourists, aiming to provide the best in Portuguese cycling adventures to cyclists who want to explore somewhere new and off the traditional tourist trail. With more than ten years of experience travelling the world, and working with a Portuguese company in Portugal, Spain and Morocco, Antonio has set up Portuguese Natural Trails, because he believes so strongly in what Portugal has to offer the cycle tourist. For those from the UK he plays the trump card, “Our weather is best because our days bring beautiful colours to our land. We have a mild climate, with over 3,000 hours of sun per year. So it’s the perfect place to spend lots of time outdoors biking, hiking, exploring, eating.” “Portuguese food is one of the most
pleasant surprises for tourists,” says Antonio. “With a vast coastline, seafood plays a major part in our cuisine and the quality of our seafood and freshly caught grilled fish is beyond compare. Why not try one of the mainstays of our cuisine? Dried and salted cod from the Atlantic? And to round off your meal, don’t miss one of our delicious desserts, made according to the ancient recipes of monks and nuns. Our wines are of exceptional quality too. Our Port and Madeira wines are already world famous, whilst our table wines are one of the best-kept secrets.” “On the other hand, the Portuguese people welcome diversity and love meeting people from all walks of life. We are gracious and friendly, welcoming all visitors ….. so what are you waiting for? Join us in a cycle tour!” It doesn’t matter what time of year, “Here you can cycle all year round – spring and autumn are the best, but you can even cycle during summer in the mountains or in some fresher coastal areas. November, December, and January are our rainy months, but we still get plenty of visitors because the temperature is so moderate compared to many other countries in Europe – in these month’s we run our tours in the Algarve, where you can enjoy an almost an African climate!”
Antonio offers off-the-shelf tours, but is keen to point out that he also specializes in tailor-made tours. He will design tours according to the type of accommodation desired and on a guided or self-guided basis. Bring your own bike or use one of his. Best to look at the detail at; www.portugalnaturetrails.com www.facebook.com/PortugalNatureTrails www.twitter.com/PTNatureTrails “At Portugal Nature Trails,” Antonio explains, “We are very proud of our services, proud of our country, and especially excited to welcome you all in Portugal. We´ve travelled so much that we know how it feels like when we are welcomed, feel safe and have a great experience. It turns into memories for a life-time, and that´s our wish to you all.”
www.cyclingworldmag.com | Cycling World 95
ireland| business back story
2009: a donegal odyssey Seamus Gallagher, founder of Ireland by Bike, tells Cycling World about the land in the far north-west and why you should go cycling in Donegal.
ar from alone, Seamus, has always loved cycling. “Going on holiday meant getting on a bicycle and exploring wherever it was that I found myself,” he says and his words will be echoed around CW’s readership. Later, with family commitments, cycling holidays were more difficult; cycling to explore reached a hiatus. Then came 2009, a momentous year; the youngest of his children was old enough to cycle independently and, with that milestone, the long awaited return of the cycling holiday. Cycling trips had been the subject of family discussions before, but now was decision time; the Gallagher clan would holiday on bicycles en route from Bratislava and Prague. “It was while planning the holiday,” says Seamus, “that, out of curiosity, I decided to do a quick internet search to see what types of cycling holiday were available in Ireland
Above: Traditional Cottage near Ardara Left: Slieve League
- and particularly in Donegal; the result – very little.” He found a few companies, from outside the area, offering guided tours, but there was no locally based company running anything like a cycle tour. In that empty field, the seeds of Ireland by Bike were sown. The family cycling trip nurtured the seedlings. “It reinforced the conviction that there is simply no better way to see the world that from the saddle of a bicycle,” confirmed Seamus. For the next few months the family agonised over whether to take the plunge and set up in business or not. Seamus was driven onward by one certainty; “The area where I live is one of the most beautiful in Ireland, but one of the least visited. I really wanted to share the area with others.” The rest of 2009 was spent frantically cycling, driving and, on one occasion, running around the back roads, villages, bogs, hills and islands of Donegal. “I
96 Cycling World | www.cyclingworldmag.com
ireland | business back story
pestered everyone who had any role to play in tourism development in North West Ireland, as well as sending a constant barrage of questions in the direction of a nearby bike rental shop - the only contact I knew who was in any way involved in the cycle tourism business. I simply wanted to have a bike tour of Donegal to offer visitors; but it had to be the best of Donegal.” By early 2010 the first tour was ready. You can almost hear the sigh of relief when Seamus says, “The reaction of our customers told us one thing – we made the right decision in starting the cycling holiday business.” Yet there is no time for complacency, “There was plenty still to be learned; one thing that soon became obvious was that a moderate tour covering 45 km per day was not for everyone. That, naturally, led to us offering a range of tours of different level for 2011.” Every year routes are reviewed and changes made. So in 2014, for example, the chance to visit one of the offshore islands is being worked into one of the tours. Ask Seamus about Donegal and his face will light up with pride. To be objective, he cites the opening paragraph of the Donegal chapter in the Lonely Planet guide for Ireland; “You could spend weeks losing yourself in wild and woolly Donegal. The county’s stark beauty captivates you and, over time, seeps down to your core. Tortuous country roads skirt stark mountains, rugged sea cliffs, craggy peninsulas, remote Gaeltacht communities, sheep-studded pastures, pristine strands, icy streams and horizons carpeted with bog and heather. Reaching up to the island’s northernmost point, the county seems eternally braced to hold its own on its own; for although political and economic turmoil has eased off, the county endures its fair share of Atlantic squalls to stave off complacency.” “It does do a pretty good job of summing up the county,” Seamus confirms; and he should know as he has cycled every bit of it. For Seamus, “Donegal has always been regarded as a world apart. Even within Ireland it is the least known and least
explored of the Irish counties, despite the fact that is contains some of the most stunning scenery to be found anywhere in Europe, and that its people are among the most hospitable you will ever meet. The reason Donegal has remained off the tourist track is its location, far from the main population centres and its proximity to the border with Northern Ireland. For many years Northern Ireland was well off the radar for most visitors, and, even though Donegal lies on the other side of the border, it was perceived in a similar way by most people. It’s an ill wind that blows no good however and the result is a region spared the excesses of mass tourism. People are now gradually making their way to this corner of the island and discovering what has been missed for years.” Most of the Ireland by Bike tours start in Donegal town; a lively market town with a good selection of bars and restaurants. From here the O’Donnell chieftains ruled over most of the northern part of Ireland until the early part of the 17th century. Their castle still stands in the centre of the town. The town is easily reached from Dublin, Ireland West and Derry/Londonderry airports. Seamus points out that, “It’s only when you head west and north that the wildness of the landscape hits you. The sea dominates as you head west; roads wind past rocky headlands, secluded beaches flanked by towering cliffs, with ever-changing sea-views which culminate at Slieve League.” These are the highest sea cliffs in Europe. “As you head north, you will pass through beautiful valleys,” he continues, “Glengesh and Granny were carved by glaciers at the end of the last ice age; stunningly beautiful Glenveagh was formed 300 million years ago when two ancient continents collided. The valley gives its name to the national park that now surrounds it. Cycling along the lake and visiting the castle are as pleasant a way of spending a day as it is possible to imagine.” The wide open landscape of the Rosses is one of small lakes and extensive bogs. Here the dominant colours are a mixture of
browns, changing to a rich carpet of purple as the heather blooms in late summer. If brown is the dominant shade in west Donegal, then green dominates the east of the county, with its verdant pastures that cover the gently rolling hills. History? Seamus points to the treasures from the Stone Age, Bronze Age and EarlyChristian eras that dot the county map. “Court Tombs pre-date the pyramids in by as much as one thousand years. You can seek out Ireland’s second largest Dolmen, while the many inscribed standing stones make for a great treasure hunt.” There’s more, to; the well-hidden Lough Doon Fort and the much later lookout towers from the Napoleonic era that cling precariously to the cliff-tops. Traditional culture? “Throughout the county you pass through bog-land where traditional methods of peat harvesting are still used. At certain times of year the bogs will be filled with locals cutting and spreading peat (referred to locally as turf) in order to dry it for winter fuel; back-breaking work necessary to fend off the worst of the winter cold. There’s always a tipple and a song to look forward to, though.” OK, Seamus, we get the message. Get in touch with Seamus and Ireland by Bike; he’d love to show you his county in the west. + 353 (0) 87 2118638 firstname.lastname@example.org www.irelandbybike.com www.facebook.com/irelandbybike
Top Left: A lesson in peat harvesting from a local farmer, near Silver Strand. Top Right: Cycling near Rathlin O Beirne Island Right: Taking a break near Killybegs
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