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 →
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.
Studio discussion of four great lives in cycling: Kuklos, the prolific journalist who documented British cycling scene in the first half of the twentieth century; Brian Robinson (pictured, above), the first Brit to win stages in the Tour de France; intrepid cycle tourist Anne Mustoe; and Laurent Fignon, perhaps the last truly great French professional bike racer.
Expert guests are Graeme Fife, author of a newly published biography of Brian Robinson, and Tim Dawson, columnist on the Sunday Times and editor of the Cycling Books website. Plus a chance to win a set of Gavin Turk Les Bikes de Bois Rond postcards. Answers by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of Wrigging – Kuklos. A 1927 essay taking on John Ruskin’s opposition to cycling.
Paul de Vivie (1853-1930), who wrote as ‘Velocio’, was an early advocate of the bicycle, supposed inventor of the derailleur and the father of French cycle touring. Here are his seven commandments for the wise cyclist:
1. Keep your stops short and few.
2. Eat before you’re hungry, drink before you’re thirsty.
3. Never get too tired to eat or sleep.
4. Add a layer before you’re cold, take one off before you’re hot.
5. Lay off wine, meat and tobacco on tour.
6. Ride within yourself, especially in the first hour.
An extended, hour long edition of the show featuring French writer, poet, cyclist and cultural ambassador Paul Fournel (pictured). We stroll from the French House in Soho to the Rapha Cycle Club in Clerkenwell, to visit an exhibition of a hundred years of racing bicycles. The exhibition runs for two more weeks and is well worth a visit. Paul Fournel’s book Besoin de Vélo is one of the loveliest pieces of writing about cycling and is available in English translation as Need for the Bike. If you buy it after clicking through on the link, Resonance FM gets a few pennies. Rob Ainsley of the Real Cycling blog reports on the launch of London’s two new cycle superhighways.
Tim Dawson, cycling columnist for the Sunday Times, runs the Cycling Books website, the most compendious review website for cycling books. He joins me in the studio to discuss the literature of cycling, from Tour de France to cycle touring. Paul Fournel reads another extract from Need for the Bike. Below is a list of the books discussed in the show. If you would like to buy them, follow the links to Amazon and Resonance FM will get a share of anything you buy, even if it’s stuff not on the list. What a nice way to help your favourite bicycling art radio station!
The Classics The Rider by Tim Krabbé The Escape Artist by Matt Seaton Need for the Bike by Paul Fournel
Tour de France Bad to the Bone by James Waddington Sweat of the Gods by Benjo Masso Wide-eyed and Legless: Inside the Tour De France by Jeff Connor Le Tour: A History of the Tour De France by Geoffrey Wheatcroft My Comeback: Up Close and Personal by Lance Armstrong and Elizabeth Kreutz
Cycle touring & travel Thunder and Sunshine by Alistair Humphreys The Hungry Cyclist by Tom Kevilll-Davies French Revolutions by Tim Moore Full Tilt: Ireland To India With a Bicycle by Dervla Murphy Transylvania and Beyond by Dervla Murphy Blue River, Black Sea by Andrew Eames A Bike Ride by Anne Mustoe
Advocacy, philosophy Richard’s Bicycle Book by Richard Ballantine
Those we didn’t get time to talk about Tomorrow We Ride by Jean Bobet The Passion of Fausto Coppi by William Fotheringham The Noiseless Tenor by James Starrs Golden Age of Handbuilt Bikes and Competition Bikes by Jan Heine Rouleur Annual 2009 Fixed: Global Fixed-Gear Bike Culture by Andrew Edwards and Max Leonard
To win copies of the current issues of Rouleur and The Ride Journal, send answers to the competition questions to bikeshow-at-resonancefm-dot-com. Thanks to these fine publications for donating the prizes.
Copenhagen is widely regarded as the world’s most cycle-friendly city. I ask Copenhagen’s Mayor Klaus Bondam what advice he gives to other city leaders in how to emulate the Danish capital. Multitalented musician, songwriter and cartoonist Peter Blegvad reads Alfred Jarry’s proto-absurdist short story “The Crucifixion Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race”. Jarry (pictured, above) was fond of cycling around Paris with a giant bell mounted on his bicycle and firing a pistol into the air to clear the road. While this is highly tempting, it may turn out to be counterproductive on today’s city streets. Why not try, instead, a website where you can record bike lane violations: MyBikeLane.com. Plus reflections on a big day in Le Tour De France.