A Century of Italian Cycle Sport

At the start of the second week of this year’s Giro d’Italia, we take the long view of cycle sport in Italy with John Foot, professor of modern Italian history at University College London. His book Pedalare! Pedalare! tells the fascinating story of how Italy fell in love with the bicycle and how cycle sport took a central role in national life.

Merckx, Merckx, Merckx

Cross Elvis Presley with Muhammad Ali, raise him in a grocery shop in post-war Belgium, put him on a bicycle and what do you get? The greatest cyclist of all time: Eddy Merckx.

Cycling journalists Daniel Friebe and William Fotheringham have both treated us to new books about Eddy Merckx, the Cannibal, winner of 525 professional races, five Tours de France, five Giri d’Italia and countless Classics. He was world champion and broke the hour record. We talk about his career, his motivations and the challenges of telling the story of the greatest racing cyclist who ever lived.

Burrows on the Bicycle (part two – laid back)

In the concluding half of an extended interview with engineer and bicycle inventor Mike Burrows, we talk about Mike’s biggest passion: laid back bicycles. He explains how these human powered vehicles came about and where he hopes they’re going. You can see the world’s fastest human powered vehicles racing at the world championships this June at the Fowlmead country park near Deal in Kent.

Plus bike blogger and endurance athlete Simon Nurse discusses the possibility of a cycling equivalent of the London Marathon. The closest we could find is the Vätternrundan in Sweden: 300km, 23,000 participants.

Burrows on the Bicycle (part one)

Mike Burrows is probably best known for his design of the Lotus 108 pursuit bike that Chris Boardman rode in the Barcelona Olympics, winning the first gold medal for a British cyclist in over 70 years. But Mike has made a huge contribution to pedal powered machines more widely. His compact road frame first developed for Giant is now a design standard and his designs have moved the world of laid back or recumbent bicycles on from the early, pioneering days in 1970s California. Burrows remains inventive, opinionated and passionate about bicycles.

This is the first of a two part extended interview. Mike will be giving a talk on 19 June at the National Transport Museum in Coventry.

All the Young Dudes: The Revival of Bicycle Framebuilding in Britain

Ted James explains the frame-mounted hub gear in his

For a second year, the Bespoked show in Bristol was platform for a new generation of British bicycle framebuilders to showcase their work. We profile Gillingham-based petrolhead turned touring bicycle framebuilder Paul Villiers and at hear from Tom Donhou, Ted James, Ricky Feather and Jonathan Paulus about how they got their start and what it takes to become a good framebuilder.

This coming weekend in Glasgow, live art group Fish & Game present their own 21st Century re-imagining of the 1901 Cycling Gymkhana. Tweed-loving artistic director Eilidh MacAskill explains more.

In a podcast-only extra, cycle sport journalist Lionel Birnie gives us his take on the spring classics thus far and looks ahead to this weekend’s Paris Roubaix. Watch A Sunday In Hell on YouTube.

How to get more women riding bikes

Image courtesy of the Breeze Network

To mark International Women’s Day, a discussion of women in cycling, from bygone days of the Rational Dress Society of the late Victorian era to Britain’s twenty-first century successes in competition on the track and on the road. With all the progress that’s been made, we ask why women are still three times less likely to ride bikes than men. Jen Kerrison and Jack Thurston are joined by Ann Kenrick, a trustee of the London Cycling Campaign and Natalie Justice of the Breeze Network at British Cycling.

The Cycling to Suffrage exhibition at the Women’s Library in London opens on 21st March.

The Obree Way

Graeme Obree & Jack Thurston - Photo © Anna Gudaniec

Earlier this month, Graeme Obree was at Look Mum No Hands! for the London launch of The Obree Way, a training manual for cyclists.

Obree is a two time individual pursuit world champion, has twice broken the world hour record and is multiple winner of British national time trial championships. He is renowned not just for his athletic prowess but for his technical innovation on the bike and with the bike itself. His autobiography, The Flying Scotsman, was made into a major feature film. At 45 he is still on the bike and currently planning an attempt on the world land speed record for a human powered vehicle.

In a wide ranging conversation with Jack Thurston, presenter of The Bike Show, Obree talks about his own life as an elite athlete, his approach to training and his enduring love of just riding a bike.

“It’s a sport, it’s a pastime and it’s a form of transport. You don’t football down to the shops.”

Graeme Obree, 19 January 2012.

Channel 4 produced an excellent documentary about the rivalry between Graeme Obree and Chris Boardman. It’s on YouTube in four parts.