Pity Lionel Birnie. For the cycling journalist and regular Bike Show contributor, following the Tour means being stuck in a smelly Skoda with three other hacks for 5+ hours a day, living out of a suitcase, sleeping in tatty hotels with paper thin walls (if he manages to find a hotel room at all) and getting fat eating junk food (all the more galling in the land of haute cuisine). He’ll get a few fleeting glimpses of the racing, but mostly he will be stuck in traffic jams, waiting around in the press centre and trying to get a few moments of face time with knackered or nervy riders who’d rather express themselves on twitter than submit to the questions of a seasoned sports journalist.
For the rest of us who are not part of the media caravan, and thanks to the efforts of a legion of Lionel Birnies, we are spoilt for choice. Here are a few suggestions for getting the most from following the three week festival of cycle racing, the world’s biggest annual sporting event on its grandest stage. Continue reading →
On a Midsummer’s Night Dixe Wills, travel writer and author of a new book on Britain’s tiny campsites, guides us on a ride from central London up the Lea Valley to a wild camping spot for a ‘sub twenty four hour overnight’. Various pitfalls ensure that little goes to plan.
The new Bike Show jersey is unveiled and – in a podcast only bonus – Andrew Neather of the Evening Standard explains why the newspaper came out for London’s cyclists.
In the studio is Bike Show regular ‘Buffalo’ Bill Chidley, who brings news of London’s burgeoning bicycle polo scene (note imminent rebranding as ‘urban bike hammer ball’). The London Open 2011 is on 30-31st July. Steve Evans, a bicycling paramedic from the Liverpool Century RC, gives some excellent practical advice on how to provide immediate post-collision assistance to an injured cyclist. Steve’s free first aid guide for cyclists is available from the Rough Stuff Fellowship. Also featured is long distance cyclist and bearded wonder James Bowthorpe, around 18 hours into his 24 hour non-stop bicycle ride in a shop window. Phew!
Community bike workshops are a beautiful idea. A place where anyone can learn the basics of bicycle repair by doing it for themselves with the help of volunteer mechanics – and have access to specialist bicycle tools. A stone’s throw from the Elephant and Castle, the venerable 56a food coop and radical infoshop has its own ‘do it together’ Bike Space, open 16 hours a week. Over in France, the Pignon Sur Rue association in Lyon runs a rather larger and more ambitious community workshop project, with 1200 members and support from the local city government.
If a shiny new bike is what you’re after, we hear from Chris Boardman on the recent advances in bicycle technology and the thinking behind his new range of Boardman bikes. Chris takes the view that while Italian consumers are most interested in style, US consumers most interested in good quality service, the British consumer is most interested in low prices. And his bikes certainly offer a lot of bicycle for the money, not least because they have cut out a stage in the retail chain by selling exclusively through Halfords, a combined distributor/dealer.
I’ve agreed to step in to lead the annual Southwark Cyclists’ ride to the London Stone at Yantlet Creek in Kent. In bygone times, several stones marked the city’s geographical limits. We’ll be riding to the stone on the south bank of the downstream Thames.
The London Stone at Yantlet Creek
It’s an 80 mile round trip from the start at 9am on 18 June 2011 at Cutty Sark Gardens, Greenwich. Fairly fast roads to Gravesend then more of a wayfaring feel to the ride to the Stone itself, maybe taking in some unsurfaced tracks. It’s estuary country, natural and spoiled in equal measure, wild and strange. Distant echoes of Conrad’s seafarers’ tales and Wilko Johnson’s guitar from across the water on Canvey Island. Here’s Iain Sinclair. We’ll have a coffee on the promenade at Gravesend and stop for lunch at a pub in Cooling.
There is an option for train back from Gravesend for those who find 60 miles is enough for one day.
Here you see one of the Mayor of London’s flagship cycling policies, known as cycle superhighways. They’re great, aren’t they? They darn well should be. The first two cost £22 million. That buys a lot of blue paint.