Inside the 2012 Olympic Velodrome


On the day before the completion of the construction phase of London’s new 6,000-seat velodrome on the 2012 Olympic site, we are treated to a sneak peek. Mike Taylor of Hopkins Architects presents the design vision and explains how he hopes it will not only be fast but environmentally sustainable and a great place to go and watch elite track racing. Mike argues that the threatened outdoor track at Herne Hill (which hosted the Olympics in 1948) is a vital ‘feeder track’ for the new Olympic facility.

Many London cyclists will know that the 2012 Velopark (velodrome, BMX track and road circuit) is being built on the site of the much-loved Eastway cycle circuit. A short film captures the final Tuesday night Ten Mile Time Trial before the circuit was demolished to make way for the 2012 Olympics.

Flickr set Velodrome pics (Creative Commons license!) here.

Could U be the most beautiful bike in the world?

When Prince sings about the most beautiful girl in the world, we know he’s not telling us she’s the most beautiful girl in the world, rather that she’s the most beautiful girl in the world to him.

In 1994 or thereabouts, when I moved back to London after university, I bought a bike from a second-hand bike stall in Camden Lock. It was a Dawes Londoner, ten speed, in blue. I think I paid around £100 for it and thought I’d got myself a pretty sweet machine at a good price. The Londoner model was made by Dawes especially for Covent Garden Cycles, a shop with an excellent reputation for touring and utility bikes that, sadly, closed down years ago. But you still see plenty of Londoners on city streets.

“Handmade in England”, from a Reynolds 531ST (super-tourer) tubeset, it had 27 inch wheels, TA chainset, drop bars and a rack. That’s about all I remember. Until 2001 it was the only bike I owned and remained my main bike until a couple of years ago. It has been on a few camping tours of the West Country but mostly it’s been a bike for riding around London, as befits its name. Here’s a picture of me and the bike, taken in 2005 when the London Cycling Campaign asked for a photograph of me for its magazine because The Bike Show had just been awarded the Campaign’s prize for ‘Best Media’.

Before (mildly odd publicity shot for The Bike Show)

I probably rode the majority of The Bike Show’s rolling interviews on this bike. Over the years bits and pieces changed. It lost its lovely TA chainset and became a single speed, then a fixed wheel. It got several sets of new wheels, a Brooks saddle, a Schmidt SON hub dynamo and moustache bars. Here’s a picture touring in Devon over the Winter Solstice in 2007:

Fixed wheel touring in Devon, December 2007

In 2008 I decided the paint had become so chipped it risked rusting away. So I took it apart and it stayed in the cellar for over a year and various components were accumulated from shops, markets and cycle jumbles for a rebuild. In the past six weeks I put my mind to getting it back on the road. The first task was repainting in a new colour: ruby red. Armourtex in Hackney, thanks in large part to the perfectionists at the London Fixed Gear and Single Speed Forum are now experts in repainting bicycles. They did a wonderful job of powder coating the frame, fork and a pair of steel mudguards I thought would look good.

I decided I wanted more than one gear and found an NOS Shimano Nexus 3-speed hub with coaster brake including an 18T sprocket, brake levers, cables etc for £15. I matched that with a Sturmey Archer 44T crankset with integrated chainguard from a little bike shop in Berlin (€25). This gives me gears of 49, 67 (direct drive) and 91. 67 gear inches is about perfect for everyday riding on the flat in London.

I decided to go for 700c rims which would give me a wider selection of tyres and more clearance on a frame built for the slightly larger 27 inch wheels. I had a pair of unused Vittoria Randonneur Pro tyres lying around that are 37mm and have quite a deep tread so should last a while and give grip and comfort on bumpy roads. However, the tyre clearance on the chain stays is barely a few millimeters and will need watching. The wheels are super-sturdy Mavic A719 touring rims and the front hub is a Shimano Dura Ace, salvaged from a pair of track wheels I found in a flea market in Belgium. The seat pillar is also Dura Ace and the saddle is a sprung Brooks ‘Conquest All Terrain’ model. The handlebars are basic North Road alloys, matched with a no-name quill stem. With a coaster brake there’s only one brake lever, combined with a twist-grip gear shifter. The rack is a cheap and cheerful Pletscher, made in Switzerland and the best-selling rack of all time, according to Rivendell Bicycles. The pedals are MKS Sylvan Tourers and there’s a kickstand from Decathlon.

Pavel at my local bike shop (the excellent London Bicycle Repair Shop) built the wheels and Wes put the bike together and did lots of small but clever things that really make it work. He made a set of mudguard stays from two lengths of 3mm stainless steel (the stays that came with the mudguards were too short), cleverly securing the to the braze-ons by reusing some V-brake washers. and routed the gear cable up the seat stay and along the top tube, rather than along the down tube. He suggested the addition of a lightweight chromed chain guard that runs the length of the chain and the wonderful Dia Compe Mod 750 centre pull front brake (based on the old Weinmann design). The brake not only looks outstanding but is a lot more effective than a side pull. The shop gave me golden ping bell that matches the Dawes decals.

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for, the result. As far as I’m concerned, the most beautiful bike in the world.

Dawes Reborn

Hand made in England. Dia Compe centre pull brakes

Brooks Conquest All Terrain saddle, fluted Dura Ace seat pillar, Pletscher rack

More pictures at Flickr.

Scrub away, scrub away, scrub away

More than a few people have raised objections to the way the Mayor of London has, for the relatively modest sum of £5 million a year for 5 years, given Barclays bank the right to paint large swathes of London’s public highway in its corporate shade of blue, have its name emblazoned on street signs and plastered over the 6,000 new hire bicycles that will be hitting the streets tomorrow.

If you sign up for the bike hire scheme (for £45 a year) you’ll get a special key (costing £3) that you will use to release the bikes from their docking stations. Like the streets, the signs and the bikes, the key comes with some Barclays corporate branding. Fortunately, it is rather easy to remove – with just a scouring pad and a little elbow grease. At least you can prevent the corporate takeover of the London’s streetscape from extending into your own pocket.


London Cycle Hire key


Bye Bye Barclays

Photo: Richard Pope (Creative Commons – Attribution | Share Alike)

Road Test: London’s new cycle hire bikes

On 30 July, 6,000 bicycles will be available for hire on the streets of London. Registration costs £1 a day, £5 a week or £45 a year and the bicycles are free for the first 30 minutes, then a rising scale of £1 for the first hour, £4 for the first 90 minutes, £15 up to three hours. The bicycles will be distributed across 400 docking stations. So what are the bikes like? Continue reading

Gavin Turk’s ‘Les Bikes du Bois Rond’

artbike2_lgTim Dawson joins artist Gavin Turk on the first of two rides in the East Anglian countryside. Plus a detailed look at the Mayor of London’s new cycle hire bikes, with Transport for London’s Gary McGowan, technical adviser to the special projects team.

To join the second of Gavin Turk’s rides, starting in Ipswich, on 17 July, book through Commissions East.

Photo courtesy of Gavin Turk

Un Tour de France de Londres with Stephen Bayley

DSC_0560As part of this year’s London Festival of Architecture, Stephen Bayley leads a ride around the best of French architecture, art and design to be found on the streets of London. Stephen Bayley is the Observer’s architecture and design critic, the founding director of the Design Museum and in 1989 was a made a Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France’s top artistic honour.

If you’re interested in my drinking guide for this year’s Tour De France, it’s here.

Photo credit: Rebecca Stephens