Tag Archives: cycling

December blues and the Peak District

It’s December, month of Christmas parties, client entertainment, never-ending lunches and dinners and booze everywhere I look. I haven’t been on my bike for the last two weeks, it’s just not possible. I miss it and I’m looking forward to some Peak District action when I visit my folks in Derbyshire over the Christmas break.

Here’s a sneak peek at what I’m looking forward to: Jacob’s Ladder, one of my favourite Peak District descents. I don’t know the rider or the guys who filmed him, but watching it made me want to jump in the car and get myself up north post haste!


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The fixie as a cultural influence. And some fixie tricks.

So I came across a site called ‘Prolly Is Not Probably‘. It straight away made me laugh when it described itself as a “website based in Brooklyn that covers a cross-section of cultural influences. Bikes, Music, Architecture, Media, Fashion, Art, whatever.”

Let me just pull that up and run it once again: “…a cross-section of cultural influences. Bikes, Music, Architecture, Media, Fashion, Art…”

Now, I love bikes. Right from my first bike, which was a second hand Raleigh girls bike (my Dad insists it was a boys bike, but it so obviously wasn’t that I just go along with it.  He must be deeply ashamed) I have loved bikes. I’ve messed around with BMXs, road bikes, commuters,  and various forms of mountain bikes over the years. And biking effects the way I live my life. But I think it’s being a little bit ostentatious to site ‘Bikes’ as a cultural influence. Come on. Really?

Anyway, that’s really an aside. What I wanted to post about here was a trailer for a video that I found on ‘Prolly Is Not Probably’; a trailer for a film called Empire. It’s about a year old, so don’t expect anything new here. It’s a film about ‘having fun with your bike in the city’, and it looks great: nice production values, lots of footage of hip looking guys and gals doing crazy shit on their fixies, cool locations… awesome, right?

I don’t know.

For a start, as a guy who rides through some of the busiest traffic in London on a daily basis, I was wincing slightly at some of the traffic dodging going on in this clip. I do like to play it fast and loose with traffic to get from A to B as quickly as possible, I will occasionally jump red lights, and I do, almost every day, end up in a silent race with another pumped-up rider, but there’s always a bit of a nod to safety. Especially the safety of pedestrians, who don’t expect or choose to have to deal with some speeding dude on a bike when they’re crossing the road at an authorised point. I’m the last person to get all stuffy about this, most of my friends think I ride ‘like a dick’, but (and I can’t believe I’m about to type this) the guys in the vid come across as a bit…irresponsible. Take risks with your own body by any means, but don’t involve other people.

For another thing, whilst I like fixies and think their smooth lines and uncluttered profile is an attractive thing, I think they look a bit stupid doing urban tricks. It’s a bit like powersliding a caravan – it’s just not right. When you look at Danny MacAskill or the Collective guys their bikes look appropriate for the kind of riding they do. And they are. But a track bike adapted for the road just doesn’t look all that comfortable jumping off stuff. The wheels are just to thin, the tyres too skinny. Get a trial bike or a BMX. I know I’m way out of date on this and that fixie freestyling is the latest thing, but I just don’t buy it.

Anyway, you can judge for yourself!

Vodpod videos no longer available.


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All weather Afan

I spent last weekend in the Afan Valley, a regular haunt of mine for mountain biking weekends out of London, being as it is the closest of the really good all-mountain style trail centres in the UK.

According to mountainbikingWales, their trails are all weather. And it can’t have escaped anyone’s notice that last weekend’s weather was fairly extreme. A great chance to test out their claim!

So after arriving on Friday night in a howling gale, spending the night listening to the cabin we were staying in creak and bellow as the wind smashed up against it, and then peering through the rain-lashed window the next day wondering what we were up against, we finally got ourselves kitted out for the adventure: cycling shorts, tights, baggies, base layer, jersey, waterproof: ready to go!

Rich and Boots

Boots and Cheetham

We were woefully under-kitted. I don’t know whether there is ANY kit out there that would have kept us dry, but within half an hour the rain had penetrated every bit of clothing: we were all wet through and freezing cold. The only way to stay warm was to keep on going and hope that the heat generated by exertion would outweigh the cold. It did.

And the trails were perfectly ridable. In fact, with very few other people stupid enough to be out, the trails were very quiet – we had the mountain to ourselves. And the weather changed the complexion of trails we all know very well – broken branches, a thick layer of pine needles, heavy, gusting winds and lots of running and standing water makes for a different – if still very ridable – experience.

So – don’t avoid winter riding just because it’s cold – get out there and experience the ‘all weather’ trail!

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Look! Pictures of bicycles!

I’ve come across this brilliant flickr set of weird and wonderful bike photographs by Dee Railer

I especially like this picture of a mural by Philip Symonds. A bit Banksy I know, but it’s all in the location. Which is a bike shed in Elephant & Castle, South-East London. Salubrious.


Discovered thanks to Bike Rumor’s Pic Of The Day via @bikerumor on Twitter.

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David Byrne and Bicycle Diaries

A couple of weeks ago a package arrived for me. I opened it up and inside was this:

Note from Lisa

And this:

Bicycle Diaries

What a lovely thing. I’m a fan of Talking Heads and by extension David Byrne. And I like the idea of this book. It’s a set of observations, insights and views loosely linked around a cycling theme: David takes his fold-up bike all over the world with him and uses it to get about in various cities – from London to Istanbul to San Francisco to his native New York, amongst others – and he writes down the stuff that happens to him and the things he thinks and feels along the way.

I haven’t started it yet, but intend to dip into chapter one today. I’ll post my thoughts on it later.

More on David Byrne here.

And you can get the book here.

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Fix up, look sharp

I read with interest that in the Netherlands and Germany, pioneering companies are setting up mobile repair services for bicycle commuters. I like this idea. Over the past year, it has felt as though London is becoming more of a cycling city. Not cycle-friendly – the cycling infrastructure is still very poor, as documented by every cyclist commenting on every message board on the internet, and drivers still seem to have an attitude to cyclists that swings between vehement hatred and total obliviousness – but a city that cycles more. And the facts bear this out: According to the Mayor’s website, cycle journeys on London’s roads are now up by 107 per cent since Transport for London (TfL) was created in 2000, and an estimated 545,000 cycle journeys are made in the capital every day. Anyway, with more people cycling comes, inevitably, more breakdowns and on-the-move repairs.

I’ve been cycling for a while, and carry a multi-tool, a spare tube, pump and levers wherever I go – they’re all lightweight pieces of kit and I hardly notice them in my courier bag. And over the years – mainly through emergency trail repairs when mountain biking – I’ve learned to fix most fixable things. Broken chains, bent gear hangers, malfunctioning derailleurs have all been encountered and dealt with. But there are sometimes breakdowns you just can’t fix. More to the point, with lots of new cyclists on the road, most without any basic cycle repair or maintenence training, I think there could be a real demand for this kind of service.


The services in the Netherlands, Fix Fiets and Bike Mobiel, and Fahrradambulanz in Germany seem to charge on a ‘call out’ basis. I wonder whether there might be an opportunity in setting up a bicycle equivalent of the AA or RAC – an insurance-based approach where you pay an annual or monthly sum to have access to the service whether you use it or not. Granted, it might need to be geographically limited – maybe only within certain London ‘zones’, say 1 and 2 to begin with. But I think the idea could work.

I have to thank my friend Aaron (@Granoldo) for flagging this up for me via a link on Twitter.

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Urban Outfitters Bike Shop

I was surfing around the world wide interweasel the other day and came across the Urban Outfitters Bike Shop

Basically, over in the US of A, Urban Outfitters, purveyors of overpriced boutique clothing for hipsters, have decided to start selling that staple of the hipster look, the singlespeed.

Urban Outfitters Singlespeed

They sell one type of bike – the Aristotle v1.5, in partnership with Republic, a bike builder that seems to be whitelabelling the Urban Outfitters project. It looks like a fairly well constructed frame with a ‘flip-flop’ hub so that you can ride it as a freewheel or fixed, probably built in the far east and assembled in the USA (given the £399 price tag), although the website doesn’t give this info.

The shop they’ve set up for the singlespeed is pretty cool: it has a nice little app where you can customise the colours of various parts of the bike – frame, saddle, grips, chain, crank, rims etc – and see what the finished bike will look like. There are so many possible combinations that the hipster can develop that truly individual look whilst being pretty much the same as all his/her mates.

Now, I have nothing against Urban Outfitters. I buy stuff from them fairly regularly and generally like the brands they stock. And this feels like quite a sensible diversification for them – many of their clientele will be interested in a singlespeed and probably not have much of a clue about what makes a good or bad one or where to get hold of one.

But this whole singlespeed revolution that has overwhelmed London over the past year is frankly a bit annoying. Up until recently I worked in Shoreditch, and at first it was amusing to watch the cool young dudes roll by on their singlespeeds, trousers rolled up, deckshoes on the feet and oversized Aviators on the face. But it seems to have spread: I live in Peckham and all the art-school kids from Goldsmiths and Camberwell have discarded their second-hand three-speed Sturmy Archer equipped shopping-baskets for singlespeeds . I work up in Primrose Hill, and even the posh kids up there are on them. It’s nuts.

I’ve nothing against singlespeeds, fixies or otherwise. I drink with a guy in his forties called Kimbal. He used to be a cycle courier, rides a beautiful old steel-framed track bike pimped for the road and is so fit he passes for a guy much younger. He understands what the fixie is all about: one-ness with the road, an outward proclamation of your skill in handling a bike and of your profession. I like that. And I understand the (minor) benefits that a singlespeed gives in terms of maintenence because it has fewer components to damage/wear out. But really, if you’re thinking of getting a bike, seriously, as a mode of transport to get you from A to B quickly, safely and efficiently, get a bike with with gears. Especially if you live somewhere with hills. It’ll be easier, you’ll enjoy it more, and as a result you might end up cycling for life rather than giving up after a few months.

In case you’re wondering, the bike I use to commute has gears.


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