Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

One tiny prick hasn’t deflated the dream

November 18, 2015

It was the briefest of pricks. I didn’t think it would sting. I thought it would be completely undetectable. But he felt it. Boy, he felt it.

Walking towards me, this guy had suddenly turned left into my path, causing me to step back and swerve out of his way so he could barge into Tesco, his face buried in his phone.

“Prick,” I mumbled. I barely heard it myself.

But he wasn’t looking at his phone now. He’s lumbering behind me, bulky and indignant, shouting over and over, “WHAT DID YOU JUST CALL ME?”

I got to the cashpoint next to the Tesco. “I think we both know that I called you a prick,” I tell him as I take my card out of the machine. I’m smiling at him. It’s lunchtime on a weekday near Monument station in central London and he’s not going to fight me. Not with all these people walking by, surely, and not when he’s wearing a fucking suit.

He tells me I should be saying sorry to him because I was in his way, and I know I can’t top that, so I just shake my head and carry on smiling as I take a couple of tenners from the machine. Brilliantly, he provides the topper himself: “I WANT A REACTION” he shouts, clumsily trying to fill the gap I’ve left.

“Mate,” I say to him, even though I never call a stranger “mate”. But fuck it, let’s see what happens when I do. “Mate,” I say, “you got a reaction. You’re just fucked off because it’s not the one you wanted.”

He’s silent and for a moment I realise I may have got the odds wrong. He’s going to hit me. I can sense it. Then there’s another couple of seconds of him seething and me smiling and I know his chance has gone. I’m going to walk away from this. But before I go, he says something which sets the tone for a series of random yet revealing encounters I’m going to have during the next 18 months.

He says, “You think you’re so superior just because you’re a cyclist.

Now at this point, I would dearly love to be incredibly superior and tell you that he identified a fellow pedestrian as a cyclist because I am, of course, in superb physical condition and I regularly draw gasps from passing strangers. Sadly, it was actually because I was pushing my bike along the pavement at the time. So instead of acting superior I’ll be grateful that The Lunchtime Thug, who wanted to teach me a lesson, actually taught me something more valuable: there is now a personality type that does not care how well you ride or even if you are riding at all. They are certain you are in the wrong chiefly because you happen to be a cyclist.

It happened again around six months later on another pavement and another lunchtime, on this occasion in Soho. I was running way ahead of time for a hospital appointment that I knew would bring a long-running series of check-ups to a welcome conclusion, so I wanted to find somewhere nice to eat beforehand. A quiet celebration for one. I had given up trying to work out the logic of Soho’s one-way streets and no-entry signs and was walking with my bike when two teenagers, looking like a pair of Dappys, rushed past me on the narrow pavement. One said to the other tetchily: “Cyclists should stay on the road.” Even when they’re not riding, it seems.

The next encounter was with a much older man, an Eighties throwback in one of those brown leather aviator jackets with the collar turned up, who expressed a similar view to Soho Dappy. He was walking in a cycle lane in Kingston a few months ago while having a telephone conversation as I freewheeled slowly behind him. After three polite “excuse mes” on my part, he finally turned round and moved to the pavement, but not before telling me I should have cycled on the road.

Finally, there was the night I came off on Borough High Street when I was trying to dodge a Friday night reveller. I was crawling along at less than 10mph when he suddenly appears, stepping out from behind a stationary bus. My front wheel tapped his leg and I hit the tarmac, where I lay for a few seconds, largely unhurt, listening to his angry lecture on the subject of how cyclists never look where they’re going. He was looking the wrong way before I hit him.

There was a time when I thought cycling in London would be accepted as a normal activity supported by the majority. And remarkably, as Andrew Gilligan pointed out last week in an Evening Standard piece about public consultations for road alterations, statistics show it pretty much has. In London, the majority don’t want fewer cyclists riding on the road (or having the temerity to walk on the pavement); they want more. That means, of course, that the dream of a completely cycle-friendly city is still within grasp. But the sour encounters I’ve had with cycle-unfriendly strangers fascinates me. How did seemingly normal people become so entrenched, so far beyond reason?

Perhaps it’s because they know they will never get their way. Many years ago, I’d frequently see badly-photocopied flyers in bike shops advertising mass gatherings of cyclists, the ultimate aim of these protests being the removal of motor vehicles from the road for good. Which, of course, did not come to pass. At the core of those fringe groups was a belief that the motorist was always, always wrong. Now the constituency of the fringe has moved: it is now populated by very different people who believe it is cyclists who are always, always wrong. Neither is true. But expressing it fuels a delusion that they might, somehow, go away one day.

Crowdfunding is great for new ideas – maybe it could work for old ideals as well

November 6, 2015

brixton cycles shopfront

How much is a principle worth? Last week it was £40,000; this week, it’s gone up to £80,000 – and I’m not going to argue with either of those valuations. It is immensely cheering to see Brixton Cycles reach its original crowdfunding goal in less than seven days, and I wouldn’t bet against them hitting their new target. That quasi-mythical entity called “the market” may have decided that an already-gentrified area of south London should have even more luxury flats, but the real market – us lot, the people who spend thousands of pounds on our hobby over a lifetime – place more value on relocating a long-established cycling business before the diggers loom over their present home.

None of this altruism should be surprising. Despite all the internal divisions and snobbery, cyclists are inclined to look out for each other – rarely I have punctured and not had at least one passing rider ask if I needed help. What is notable in Brixton Cycles’ case, though, is the rate at which donors have rushed to their aid: to put it into some kind of context, the infamous Kimmage Defence Fund, (which, although ultimately mismanaged, nevertheless involved some far more well-known names on both sides of the mooted libel case it was set up to fight) took less than 40 per cent of the repair shop’s seven-day total over the same period.

Perhaps that reflects how much more popular crowdfunding has become since fans tried to come to Paul Kimmage’s aid three years ago. These days, though, cycling-related crowdfunded campaigns usually involve backing an idea that will be turned into physical goods, so in that sense Brixton Cycles is swimming against the tide. They are asking you to pay for an ideal, not a product.

Somewhat tangentially, I thought about the role of crowdfunding shortly after I stumbled across Martin Porter’s observations on private prosecutions which were part of his contribution to the Commons Transport Select Committee on Road Traffic Law Enforcement. Essentially, he sets out how difficult it is for cyclists to bring private prosecutions in relation to an incident on the road, and Martin believes a change in the law is required to bring down the barriers currently in place.

You can read Martin’s evidence and decide for yourself. What struck me about it, though, is that crowdfunding could be an effective way to mount a campaign for an issue such as this. Too often, it seems that cycling advocacy groups aim for broad targets that the majority of us would want – better infrastructure, fewer motor vehicles on the road, stiffer sentences for poor driving – rather than focussing on specifics or what may be achievable. Another issue, for me, is that many club cyclists and serious recreational riders aren’t members of the CTC, LCC or similar groups. Maybe the way forward would be to pick just one goal, set out a strategy, and ask all of us for money to fund the campaign.

But that’s a thought for the future. In the meantime, you can contribute to Brixton Cycles’ campaign here.

Total freedom… ‘Dam, this would never work in London

October 29, 2015
There's no limits.

There’s no limit.

A couple of weeks ago, to take a break from riding my bike, I travelled with Jen to a city that is synonymous with cycling. As first-time visitors to Amsterdam, we soon learned to walk in single file whenever a cyclist came towards us on one of the narrow paths by the canals. Here, the bike is king: cyclists aren’t bound by red lights, and every day we were doing the Tourist Safety Dance, stepping off the kerb and back on it again to avoid clusters of cyclists barrelling along the road, then repeating the steps a few times until there was a gap in the two-wheeled traffic big enough for us to reach the other side. We didn’t mind playing Frogger and it looked like no one else does either. Humans, unlike arcade amphibians, are natural adaptors. That’s why they’ve been around so long.

But bike culture, like any other type of culture, isn’t an exportable product that can be bundled on a plane and flown back to London. Almost every Amsterdammer rides shopping bikes, which means everyone travels at roughly the same speed, making it relatively simple for pedestrians to dodge them (even though they’re going somewhat faster than you might expect a clunky sit-up-and-beg to move). I think the speeds of London’s cyclists are simply too varied for this Amsterdanarchy to work.

Indeed, the Dutch capital is a million miles from the world of Britain’s serious recreational cyclist. I could count the number of drop handlebars we saw on the fingers of one hand, and a large newsagent we stumbled upon which stocked a considerable selection of magazines from every consumer sector you can think of – home and garden, music, video games, children’s titles, you name it – had only a tiny selection of titles covering cycle sport.

Riding a bike in London is an act of rejecting the limits placed on your movement by motor traffic and, to a lesser extent, public transport. It is expressive, individualistic, maybe even (in the most antisocial cases) transgressive. In Amsterdam, where I saw a beaming little girl perched on the front of her dad’s bike as we walked to the Hermitage museum, cycling is a shared culture. To get to that point, London cyclists would need to compromise the way they ride, which would be a change more significant than any road-building, law-changing or investment in infrastructure. Would we ever be prepared to make that leap?    

Pinning down my bikes

September 22, 2015

Every man who reaches a certain age will find his attention turning to sheds, and I am certainly no exception. We’ve had one built at the end of our garden, chiefly to house my bicycles – and oddly enough, it has had a liberating effect on my life. The bikes are no longer needy house guests forever dripping oil on our floorboards and peeking out at me from the spare room. I can now wait for the urge to get out on my bike, rather than feeling subconsciously goaded into riding by catching sight of my bikes every time I cross the hallway.

A purpose-built security shed complete with five-lever locks and a couple of concreted-in ground anchors was by far the most expensive solution to storing the bikes, but it offered the fewest compromises. An Asgard metal locker would have taken up too much space in our little garden, and fitting one inside our old rickety shed would limit storage space. And besides, any reasonably intelligent thief probably knows those types of lockers contain bikes just by looking at them. So a massive, windowless shed that gives no clue to its contents (while still looking reasonably pleasant and ordinary) was the best option.

Naturally, I picked the most secure ground anchors and the strongest chains I could find. The only problem is they aren’t compatible – the links of boron steel Protector Chains are too wide to fit through the hole of Mammoth anchors. I thought I would have to switch to a smaller, weaker chain until David at Security For Bikes provided a solution in the form of a brilliant little device called an Anti-Pinch Pin, which is basically a giant steel rivet that has a thinner section near its tip. You put the pin through both ends of the chain with the anchor hole sandwiched in the middle, then clamp a Squire high-security padlock snugly over over the thin part of the pin to lock the chain in place.

anti-pinch pin and protector chain on ground anchor

David was immensely helpful, looking at a photo I sent him of our shed and helping me work out a solution through a series of emails after I had bought two Protector Chains from him and discovered they didn’t fit. I can’t recommend them highly enough, so check out their website if you’re thinking of upgrading the security for your bicycles.

Lifestyle doping and the rise of the no-fessional

August 19, 2015

Here’s a true story. An accomplished amateur cyclist went round to a similarly high-achieving rider’s home for dinner. During the course of the evening, the guest confided to the host that work and family life had got in the way of bike racing. The host was unimpressed as they too had children and other responsibilities yet still found time to train and race. “Isn’t that right?” the host said, turning to their spouse for support.

Mentally noting that the accomplished amateur cyclist was aided by a personal trainer, a nutritionist, support for their family and ultra high-end kit, not to mention a complete lack of paid work, the long-suffering spouse coolly responded with the admirably Salteresque aversion: “Up to a point, dear.”

This anecdote, which I stumbled across a couple of years ago, popped into my head when I saw the Daily Telegraph’s John Critchlow provide a breakdown of the eye-popping £25,000 he had spent to compete in top-level amateur races. It was the first in a planned series of missives which will detail his racing progress, and I suppose it’s in the nature of these sorts of serial blog posts to inspire others who would like to take up a similar challenge (although I can’t seem to find any follow-up posts in the intervening four months). In any case, more knowledgeable people than myself have done a good job of ridiculing the idea it is necessary to spend the equivalent of the average UK salary just to ride the Surrey League and other events that no normal person gives a flying toss about, so I’m not going to throw another log onto that particular bonfire of hilarities. What interests me is how Critchlow, like the nameless dinner party host I’ve mentioned, seems unable to acknowledge a simple truth: that in the pursuit of sporting excellence, emptying your wallet and your schedule may give you an unfair advantage.

This isn’t about harvesting results. The High-Achieving Dinner Party Host has a considerable list of wins to their name, whereas a comment on Critchlow’s post points out he had yet to score a single BCF point this season. The advantage I’m talking about is psychological. Would the dinner party guest be quite as demotivated if they too had a paid backup crew? And be honest: aren’t there bleak moments when you wished you had the pro-level of support that the Telegraph’s Mr Mid-Life Crisis has afforded himself?

I’d call this sort of thing lifestyle doping – injecting litres of dosh and keeping a secret stash of expendable time, both of which enable you to be competitive at a high level. In truth, a form of lifestyle doping was around when I started riding semi-seriously around a dozen years ago. I remember my amused clubmate Chris Chapman telling me after a chipper race that our Dynamo chum Sam Humpheson had “won the race for people with jobs” by taking the bunch sprint after a break had already crossed the line, led by a particularly unloved crit racer who did practically nothing else at the time except train and race. It was a few years later that we entered into The Era Of The Golden Parachute, a period immediately after the global financial crisis which saw some high-earners of my acquaintance suddenly finding themselves with no paid employment, bags of cash from a redundancy settlement and even bigger bags of free time, which they filled up by punishing themselves on a bicycle for months on end. Then another job would come along, and living the pro dream came to an abrupt halt.

These Golden Parachutists, or at least the ones I knew, quietly went about getting into the form of their lives without drawing too much attention to themselves. But now lifestyle doping has bred an altogether less modest cyclist: the No-fessional, the sort of rider who will never have a professional contract but behaves a bit like they do. Like a professional cyclist, the no-fessional revels in the attention and admiration that comes with a life spent in the saddle, which in their case is attained by blogging and tweeting about every ruddy mile they ride. But unlike professional cyclists, the riding no-fessionals do isn’t exactly racing, even though they like to give the impression it is. I know of one no-fessional who boasted of completing a Grand Tour when it was actually just the route they were riding (and – whisper it quietly – they didn’t complete all the stages). Another no-fessional, my chum Chris Ward, recently qualified for a glorified sportive called the UCI Vets World Championship Road Race where every rider is lifestyle doped up to the eyeballs – which, as another friend who took part in a previous edition noted, consequently means the quality of the field isn’t the highest that it could be. There are probably faster guys on your club run.

I should pause here to say I am not knocking Chris (or, indeed, anyone else I’ve mentioned) for becoming fitter, faster and healthier. But Chris’s aim was to prove that it’s possible to work more than 40 hours a week and still conquer an extraordinary challenge, to which I would say: up to a point, dear. One of the reasons he’s able to train when he wants is because he has a number of factotums who are willing to work antisocial hours to get his projects completed on time. And I would know, because I was one of them.

Which brings us back to that dinner party and Critchlow’s blogging for the Telegraph. Because that’s the common theme of the high-profile lifestyle doper: tell your audience you can do what I do while glossing over the advantage they have over the schmucks. To quote the great American philosopher S. Twain, that don’t impress me much. Riding with riders who are wiser or fitter than you and learning from them will help you reach your goals. Listening to hollow bragging probably won’t.

How workplace bike parking facilities should be done

July 28, 2015

Job interviews never used to be a standard procedure in my line of work. Traditionally, you’re asked to do a few shifts, and if they like you, then you get to do a few more, and somewhere down the line you may be offered a contract. It’s a bit like a massively extended version of the Apprentice, except it’s not as entertaining and you get paid during the process. And, obviously, you don’t need to be a game-changing, thinking-outside-the-box, nonsense-spouting berk to take part.

So having an interview for my present job, which I started five months ago, put me in an unfamiliar arena, which is my excuse for being momentarily flummoxed when I was asked at the end if I had any questions. Of course I did; I was just so relieved to have reached the end that my mind went blank for a second and I just couldn’t remember them. So instead of enquiring about healthcare or the pension scheme, I asked about an aspect of the job which only a foolish bicycleperson would ask: what are your bike parking facilities like?

I wasn’t quite prepared for the answer. Apparently many of the top people in the company are cyclists and one of the main things they wanted was a secure facility to store their bikes and change into their civvies. And that’s what they, and we, have got. Whenever I have mentioned this in passing to one of my cycling chums, they react with a wide, beaming smile, a bit like a child being told, “Pack your bags – we’re off to Disneyland!” It seems that in the workplace a proper bike parking facility is the stuff of a madman’s dream. So I thought I’d give you, my several readers, the same vicarious pleasure by going into greater detail about these facilities and showing you what they look like.

Our bike park is situated beneath the building and is monitored by CCTV cameras. To get in, you need to swipe your pass at two sets of doors at either end of a short corridor, the first of which has to have closed before you can open the second. This security system has already thwarted one enterprising ne’er-do-well who managed to tailgate someone going in but then found, after taking a load of clothes and actually changing into them, that she couldn’t get out.

Bike parking bike racks

Most of the bikes are stored on split-level racks; to wheel your bike up onto the top part, you pull out the metal arm it will stand upon and, voila, you have a ramp. Thanks to this space-saving idea, there is ample parking for approximately 200 bicycles in a relatively compact area.

Bike parking showers and towels

There are toilets and small lockers around the parking bays, while upstairs has showers, male and female changing rooms and a drying out room for when Mother Nature blesses you with a thorough drenching. The changing room has free towels which are replenished twice a day as well as lockers which are bigger than those downstairs and lining the corridors.

Bike parking big lockers

Naturally, many people with small lockers such as myself covet these big ’uns. I know I did – until the day I walked into the office and saw a fellow cyclist wearing a pair of ladies’ three-quarter-length jogging pants which he had to borrow from a female colleague. Unlike the small lockers, which have combination locks, the big lockers need a key – which, unfortunately, he had forgotten.

Bike parking small lockers

The changing room is quite small, so there seems to be a certain etiquette: don’t take up more space than you need and try to keep keep a towel wrapped around your waist as much as you can, because no one needs to see that sort of thing at close proximity, mate. The occasional bike chat with fellow cyclists is fairly standard – discussion of commuting routes, equipment, moaning about poor driving and so on – while joggers seem to exist in a world of their own, silently thumbing their smartphones or, in the case of one bloke, wandering in straight from a run, mixing a recovery drink in the shower and then walking straight out again. I’m sure he does shower and change before returning to his desk, I’ve just never seen him do it.

Bike parking drying out room

The downsides? Well, there aren’t any. It’s a safe, secure, clean facility that’s a pleasure to use, although it’s a shame there’s a bit of low-level rule-breaking going on. The drying out room, pictured above, looks like a walk-in wardrobe, even though there’s a sign asking us not to use it to store clothes, and a track pump which appeared to be for our shared use went missing a couple of months ago. (A handwritten note asking where it had gone prompted one wag to write beneath: “It stepped outside to get some air.”) A bigger problem is that dozens of bicycles have been locked to racks months ago and never used again, so as of this month, all bikes need to be registered and have a numbered disc attached to them. Any remaining bikes are going to be removed and stored in a nearby car park, and those which aren’t claimed will be shipped out to a charity in Africa.

Quite right, too. There are many who would love to use this bike park – as the amazed faces of my friends can attest.

Dynamo at the Dynamo

July 13, 2015
Dunwich beach, 4am, Saturday 4th July 2015

Dunwich beach, 4am, Saturday 4th July 2015

This year, for the first time, London Dynamo had a group at the Dunwich Dynamo. It’s taken us 11 years to get round to the one ride that’s practically got our name on it, and there were only a handful of us. But hey – from small acorns, right?

It was, of course, huge fun going at a fair old pace through the night with my club chums en route to our breakfast on the beach. But it was during the journey back to London that I was most grateful for their presence.

Thanks to an engineering train smacking into a bridge, all services from Ipswich to London were cancelled. This was obviously not the news we wanted to hear having cycled 30 miles from the beach after the century we’d clocked up getting from London Fields to Dunwich. And now it had started to rain. To get home, we had to take a train to Colchester and a cab to Chelmsford, where we ran back and forth with our bikes between two platforms because no one had a ruddy clue when or where the two trains were going to arrive. What a bleedin’ palaver.

Having had practically no sleep, lesser riders would’ve crumbled under the pressure of the dangerously large crowd packing out the platforms at Chelmsford and the general ineptitude of the station staff. So I’m grateful to Andres Roldan (left in the photo above), Lily Liu and Nick Dove for maintaining their calmness and good humour throughout. I’m particularly indebted to my former neighbour Nick for seamlessly executing my rather hazy plan to get us into a people carrier at Colchester just as some cyclists appeared to be on the verge of seriously losing their rags in the station’s car park. Next year, I hope, we’ll either be on one of Southwark Cyclists’ excellent coaches or in a specially-commissioned Dynamobile.

If you want to know about the Dun Run itself, you can read a short piece I wrote for I also took some photos as the sun came up which you can view over at Exposure.

Skwinge when you’re winning, Skoyens before you’ve won

June 1, 2015

At the recent Tour of California, a 23-year-old Latvian (pictured above) briefly lead the race after taking a solo victory on stage three. Before he won, his name was “Skoyens”; afterwards, he was referred to as “Skwinge”.

Apparently Eurosport’s commentators spoke to a couple of Toms Skujins’ countrymen after his victory to get the correct pronunciation, and Skwinge was the result. Latvia is hardly known for its sense of humour, but I suspect those two Latvians did their bit to change that.

There’s been a nasty outbreak of pronunciationitis recently. In the weird world of TV commentary, As-TA-na has transmogrified into ASS-ta-NAR, which is surely now cycling’s equivalent of Hyacinth Boo-KAY. The chap who was talking over the Giro d’Italia for Eurosport constantly referred to Eh-LEE-ya Viviani, as if we would have been scratching our heads if he stuck with broadcasting tradition and referred to riders by their surnames. And in the otherwise excellent Telegraph Cycling Podcast, the flow of conversation is briefly stymied whenever one of the presenters pulls the other up on how to say “Michal Kwiatkowski”. Meanwhile, to my untrained ears, it seems no one is that bothered about pronouncing Dutch or Flemish names correctly, even though Belgium and the Netherlands have had a far greater role in cycling culture than Latvia or Kazakhstan.

I think UK Cycling Expert offers a lesson here. There are two broad reasons why we chuckle when he refers to Zdenek Stybar as Zebedee Sidecar. The first is that there is something in the phonetic alchemy of those words that sound funny when they’re put together. The second is that we like getting names wrong. It’s a British tradition. In a similar way to the British First World War soldiers who mispronounced Ypres for their satirical magazine the Wipers Times, we like to make our own fun. So don’t tell us what we should be saying, even if you happen to be right.

I doubt whether pronouncing a rider’s name differently to how his mother says it would cause him offence anyway. And although broadcast professionals are well-meaning and probably correct, they’re fighting against the tide of time. Does anyone really think that our grandchildren, looking at the yellowed pages of a cycling magazine, would see the name emblazoned across a garish greeny-blue jersey and pronounce the first syllable in the same way that an American would say “arse”?

The obvious point here is that with so many languages involved in professional cycling it is impossible to pronounce all of them correctly. This being the case, my advice to any English-speaking broadcaster is to follow the Roy Walker rule: say what you see. Because aiming for authenticity is truly Skwingeworthy.

The bag that will never be bettered

April 21, 2015
One of these bags is invaluable

One of these bags is invaluable

I’ve been using a new bag to take my suits into work. It’s called a Henty Wingman. You put your jacket and trousers on a coathanger, zip it into the flat main compartment then roll it around a cylindrical inner bag which you’re meant to use for toiletries (I prefer to use it as a poncy manbag for the office and leave the bigger, cumbersome outer layer stuffed in my locker).

Generally, I’m not a huge fan of the courier bag one-shoulder set-up, which in my experience means you often have to decide between losing the circulation in your left arm or keeping the strap loose and putting up with the whole thing randomly swinging into the wing mirrors of trucks. I could also do without the Wingman’s preponderance of clips and straps which take a bit of getting used to and make the contraption look like a piece of camping equipment. But the bottom line is, if you fold everything correctly, it works. Your suit will not give you the appearance of having slept rough in a shop doorway. For that look I rely on not shaving for a week and attacking four climbs on a heavy steel fixie as part of my 12-mile commute, which gives me the classic punch-drunk stare of a wino.

The Wingman gets stares of a different kind, mainly because it looks so complicated. A few weeks ago, as I was preparing to go home, someone saw my new bag in the staff changing room, but this time it was the Uniqlo plastic carrier I had pulled out of the side pocket that provoked interest. “It doesn’t matter what you use,” this stranger observed, “you will always need a plastic bag.”

It’s a hallmark of The Serious Cyclist that he (it’s always a he) will proffer a nugget of wisdom whether you’ve asked for it or not. But he’s right, you know. Like the red balloon trailing that kid along the streets of 1950s Paris, the humble plastic bag has patiently followed me throughout my cycling life. It’s a protective wrapping for food to prevent your work clothes being splattered in a burst ready meal. It’s a waterproof inner layer lest the rain seeps in through a zip. It’s a receptacle for soaked kit after you’ve been drenched in a particularly wet off-season race. And it’s a compartment to separate sweaty clothing from smothering the pages of whatever paperback I happen to be reading. Like the best cyclists, the dutiful plastic carrier bag is light, uncomplicated, adaptable and free. Our lives would be messier and smellier without it.

Pay a tenner and get all the cycling magazines you would ever want

April 13, 2015

My chum Chris Ward, who rides his bike a lot but doesn’t like to talk about it, recently tipped me off about a magazine app called Readly which has hundreds of titles available to read on your iPad. It stocks all the main British cycling mags – Cycle Sport, Procycling, Cycling Plus and Cycling Weekly – as well as the niche publications Urban Cyclist, Cycling Active, Cycling Fitness and Rouleur. There is no charge for two weeks, and if you want to continue subscribing then you pay £10 a month – which, obviously, is pretty good value for seven monthly titles and a weekly. And if you get bored reading about a load of old cobbles that define the most recent phase of the racing calendar, then you can always peruse the delightful Your Chickens, which has a news-in-brief section called Chicken Nuggets. The silly cluckers.

You flick through pages in much the same way as you would with a physical magazine, and you can call up a scrolling menu at the foot of the screen that allows you to jump to particular pages. It’s a neat little service, and even though new issues are only available some time after they’ve appeared in newsagents, I find I’m reading more than I usually would in dead tree format because all the magazines are tucked in my iPad whenever I want them. The best thing I’ve read so far is Daniel Friebe’s interview with Mark Cavendish in Procycling, which pulls off that rare feat of maintaining a depth of analysis yet ultimately leaving the reader to decide on the main question: can Cav adapt to the challenges of this stage in his career?

cav in procycling mag

I’ve yet to see any of the cycling mags telling their readers about Readly, and that makes me wonder if they doubt the venture will provide any benefit to their bottom line. But I think it will appeal to special interest types like us, so I hope it flourishes.


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