Posts Tagged ‘BBC’

Why cycling has to encounter a Tea Party moment

August 23, 2013

As an informed, intelligent bicycleperson, you probably know that road tax is the common term for Vehicle Excise Duty, and that it is based on emissions. This wasn’t always the case: human-powered cars which the likes of Fred Flintstone and his neighbour Barney Rubble propelled with their lower bodies were once subject to Vehicle Exercise Duty (if you can’t manage a boom-tish at this point, a Hanna-Barbera-esque lick on the bongos will do). But in these more enlightened times, cyclists are exempt. Bicycles don’t produce any emissions, which is why they are not subject to VED.

With laborious regularity, ‘road tax’ is unfairly played as the trump card in criticisms levelled at cyclists (a friend filmed the above clip featuring a driver giving the usual spiel to a rider in the Oval last week) so it was heartening to witness the rare sight of a mainstream news outlet setting out the facts of VED last week. But the BBC’s feature didn’t make an effort to distinguish motorists who referred to VED as road tax – the majority in the reporter’s small, quick poll – from those who also use the term to falsely assert their primacy over cyclists. My instinct is that the latter are, shall we say, a very niche group, despite (or maybe because of) the volume and righteous fury of their objections.

Imagine a drunk trying to take a swing at you in a pub because his beer is taxed and your orange juice isn’t; that, in essence, is the weak logic of the ‘I pay road tax’ brigade. So why, then, does the article go on to claim that road tax, as a notion of paying for roads and establishing who has the greater right to be on them, is “a powerful political idea”? Let the market set the cost of labour – now that’s a powerful political idea. Or decide wages through collective bargaining – that’s a conflicting one. Political ideas motivate, animate, agitate. You can pour billions of pounds into a political idea or watch people take to the streets in protest against one. But ‘road tax’ is not a political idea; it is just a lazy fantasy for those who want change but don’t fancy doing the heavy lifting.

In wider politics, Britain has already had two Tea Party moments recently – first with the BNP, then Ukip – and in both cases the parties exposed their supposed populism for naked hatred and general cluelessness. I think it’s about time cycling came up against a Tea Party. Irascible motorists of the world, unite! Stop hiding behind the non-existent ‘road tax’ argument – if you don’t want me on the road because you think I’m an inconvenience, or there are too many of us, then just say it. And will you discover, to your great surprise, just how unpopular you and your views actually are.

What’s the best way to listen to Danny Baker while riding a bicycle?

October 24, 2012

I’ve mentioned before that one of the central pleasures in my life is listening to Danny Baker on BBC London while I ride my bicycle into town. To do this, I used to use the TuneIn app for the iPhone, but it has a rude habit of cutting Danny off mid-anecdote, restarting a moment later at the same point it lost the signal, then skipping a few seconds to catch up. By which point Danny has gone to a Fountains of Wayne record, and I’ve missed the funniest bit of the story. Curse you, capricious app!

For this reason, I now listen to the world’s greatest radio show on an FM radio accessory which plugs into the old version of the iPod. But I’m no analogue snob, and it’s irksome having to carry a phone as well as an iPod, so this week I gave the new BBC iPlayer Radio app a whirl.

Is it any better than TuneIn? Well, after dialing up BBC London 94.9 using the whizzy little semicircular station selector, it soon became clear that it isn’t. On my seven-mile journey, the signal conked out three times – and unlike TuneIn, which attempts to reconnect automatically, I had to stop riding and restart it. Another advantage of TuneIn is that you can listen to practically any station in the world, not just the BBC’s output. So if you can put up with your favourite show going silent mid-broadcast, then choose TuneIn over iPlayer radio.

Yesterday was a decisive moment for a number of familiar technologies: Ceefax displayed its final pixels, and Apple sounded the death knell for CDs and DVDs by announcing that the new super-slim iMac won’t have an optical drive (although you can buy an external device if, in the slightly condescending words of Apple’s marketing chief, you are “stuck in the past”). FM, meanwhile, the old iron horse of audio broadcast media, has kept on going – even if it is, like an OAP, a little fuzzy at times. Perhaps 4G will be so fast and reliable that I’ll be able to chuck out my little iPod radio attachment, but at the moment it seems clear that radio apps don’t work as well as they should on 3G. So I’m puzzled why the BBC released theirs now. In the meantime, it’s FM for the Candyman.

Apple’s greatest thingamyjigs

March 9, 2012

Over the years, I have owned and used many items emblazoned with the familiar silhouette of a bitten apple. But my two favourites are probably the least technologically advanced, which is probably why their praises aren’t sung too often. So I would like to offer my own faint warble to them here.

The first device which holds a special place in my heart is this little marvel:

It looks like a Nano that’s grown a tail, but it’s actually an FM radio. Plug it into the old version of the iPod and the screen becomes a transistor receiver dial.

Now, doesn’t that look nice?

I’ve written before about my unbounded love for Danny Baker’s show on BBC London 94.9, but without this beauty, I wouldn’t be able to indulge in the simple pleasure of listening to the great man every day while I cycle into town. Having used the TuneIn app, I’ve learnt that radio via 3G is simply a means of disturbing your listening pleasure with random silences, and I’ve heard that DAB radios have the same problem. So for the foreseeable future, I’ll stick with this fantastic analogue oddity.

My second thing of wonder is the remote control for the iMac.

It enables you to adjust the volume, pause or skip tracks, and switch playlists or albums. All of which you can do with a mouse or a keyboard, but not when you’re slogging away on the turbo and you suddenly realise that you need to go one louder or change to a completely different playlist if you’re going to last until the end of the session. Essentially, by combining this simple infrared device with a pair of good speakers, you’ve turned your Mac into a less fiddly, turbo-friendly iPod.

Yes, these wotsits are merely accessories, humble sequins on technology’s shimmering raiment. But rather than launch the third incarnation of the same tablet in less than two years, I really wish Apple would instead come up with more of these unusual objects. The sort of objects that say, “I can fit neatly into your life,” not “Fit all of your life onto me.”

Making a mountain out of a Mole Valley hill

November 21, 2011

As an informed cycleperson, you would probably know what I was referring to if I constructed a headline beginning with the words “Olympic cycle route row at Box Hill”. “Yes,” you would say to yourself, “this is a story about the route for the Olympic road race. There’s a bit of a hoo-ha about restricting the number of spectators at Box Hill because of environmental concerns. In fact, some are questioning why the Olympic officials didn’t choose any one of the many other challenging hills in the Surrey area to accommodate more spectators. I wonder what’s the latest development in this long-running saga? I must read this story to find out.”

This, reader – naive, trusting reader – is not an unreasonable assumption to make. Not an unreasonable assumption at all. But, in the case of a story that appeared on the BBC website on Thursday, you’d be bang wrong, buster.

Olympic cycle route row at Box Hill sparks police patrols”. Police patrols? Are mild-mannered cyclists, emboldened by the global mood of fed-upness manifested by makeshift campsites at Wall Street and St Paul’s, now protesting about their own crisis on Mole Valley’s famed Zig-Zag? No. No, they are not. Read on, and it becomes clear that the story is actually about police telling cyclists – ordinary cyclists like, perhaps, yourself – to observe the rules of the road because they’ve had complaints from local residents. In the context of the story, there is no “row” about the Olympics. There is a suggestion that the tensions have been triggered by more cyclists coming to try out Box Hill because it is part of the Olympic route, but the police sergeant quoted seems to think otherwise: “This isn’t an issue solely of cyclists but an issue of increased visitors to Box Hill full stop.” So despite the headline and the angle of the story, The Olympics has bugger-all to do with anything.

And, as an informed cycleperson, you may also be aware of how the story about cyclists supposedly behaving badly on Box Hill first emerged. A couple of months ago, Mole Valley Police handed out leaflets warning cyclists, ungrammatically, that they would be fined £1,000 for dangerous or inattentive riding. The force later apologised for their “blunt” and “inappropriate” warnings (see number two here). These facts are absent from the BBC report.

But let’s look at it another way. Perhaps the Beeb’s headline-writer was using the word “Olympic” to mean “very big”, in a similar way that Little Chef has an “Olympic Breakfast” on its menu that wouldn’t exactly fit into the diet plan of a world-class athlete. And, once the dust has settled, maybe the police could tell us exactly how many cyclists they have had to apprehend on their patrols of Box Hill. The problem, despite the complaints, may not be Olympic-sized after all.

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #19

September 30, 2011

5 UP Tim Vine
“See these Icebreakers? Don’t work. Tried to use one to start a conversation and the guy just walked away.” Boom, and indeed, tish! And so, with a chortlesome quip about a high-end brand of merino base layer, comedian Tim Vine began a short routine at the Pearson Performance store on Friday evening which united the two aspects of life most precious to this blog: cycling and light-hearted wordplay. Hurrah! The one-liner wonderman, who is a childhood chum of owners Will and Guy, made our week with his puntastic appearance in East Sheen, although we’re not going to quote the rest of his routine: this is our blog, and we make the jokes around here (even though they are sub-standard by comparison).

4 UP Newreaders
Staying at the launch of the excellent new Pearson store, one interesting nugget that we picked up which may already be common knowledge among the bikerati is that ITV’s Dermot Murnaghan and Matt Barbet of Channel 5 fame regularly go out riding together. Two TV anchormen, sat next to each other on their bikes, talking away for hours: you know what they probably get up to, don’t you? The pair of them (in The DYNAMITE! Files’ head, anyway) chat to each other as if they’re doing a news broadcast, live from the hills of Surrey. Let’s turn on the vivid HDTV of our imagination and watch… “Good afternoon and thanks for joining us. Coming up: a tight left-hander. Over now to Matt Barbet. Matt, tell us what’s happening.” “Thanks, Dermot. We’re getting unconfirmed reports of a major pothole. Oof! Yes, I can now confirm a pothole has been encountered. Back to you, Dermot.” And so on, for the course of 70 to 100 miles. Possibly.

3 DOWN David Harmon
Still at the launch night of Pearson Performance (can you tell this blog doesn’t get out much?) we were disappointed that the World Championships prevented Eurosport commentator and Richmond Park regular David Harmon from attending. One Pearson partygoer reckons the man behind the mic sounds a little different when off-air and isn’t immediately recognisable, so we had a great way to identify him should he have turned up: “accidentally” drop a glass of bubbly and wait for the one person in the room to say: “Oh no! There’s been a crash! Oh, disaster! This is terrible!” Would’ve worked a treat. Maybe next time, eh?

2 UP Pat McQuaid
The Dalai Lama. Barack Obama. Nelson Mandela. Men of character and wisdom, whose achievements are so great that they truly deserve to have an in-depth 15,000-word feature written about them in a publication of record. And now you can add, er, Pat McQuaid to that august list, because the UCI president is the subject of a Grand Tour-sized question-and-answer session in the forthcoming issue of (what else?) Rouleur. It’s all in there: the Armstrong donations, the accusations of nepotism and why, despite what any of us may think, it’s apparently quite important to have a WorldTour race in China. But perhaps the most intriguing revelation is that Uncle Pat used to lurk on internet forums to see what cycling fans have been saying about him. BikeRadar: your hotline to Aigle. Who would have thought?


1 UP Mark Cavendish, Champion Of The World
It’s something you probably never thought you’d see: “Peta, 24, from Essex”, purportedly quoting Goethe on page three of The Sun as she analyses the euro bailout (“Everything in the world may be endured, except continued prosperity,” apparently). Meanwhile, tucked away on page 62 of the same newspaper, there was a brief report on her boyfriend – someone called Mark Cavendish – being crowned cycling’s world road race champion, making him the first Brit to win the men’s title in 46 years. So judging by the difference in column inches between Cav and his girlfriend in Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper, it would appear that the giddy dream posited by an excitable question from the BBC – “Could cycling become the UK’s second-favourite sport?” – is a long way from becoming a reality. But let’s look at it another way: how, you may ask, is the question in any way relevant? Does the popularity of a sport automatically make it more successful or interesting? Because anyone who saw Sunday’s thrilling race in Copenhagen or read Richard Williams’ analysis in the Guardian would realise that British riders are now officially amazing – super-strong, tactically astute and ruddy fast – and they became brilliant while the majority of the British public wasn’t paying any attention. Which makes their achievement all the more special, doesn’t it?

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #13

August 19, 2011

5 UP Kurt Asle Arvesen
You’d never guess who we saw down the road the other day. Kurt Asle Arvesen. Yes, THE Kurt Asle Arvesen – how many Asle Arvesens are there, fer chrissakes? Kurt Asle Arvesen, Norwegian multiple Grand Tour stage winner, was briefly outside Tasty’s kebab and burger bar by the roundabout at the junction of Fulham Road and Fulham Palace Road on Sunday. Yes, alright, he was participating in the London-Surrey Cycle Classic at the time, and the chasing pack was about to thwart his brief, last-gasp attack six miles from the finish. But still, one of the most accomplished cyclists in the world, with dozens of other pros in his wake, transforming an unremarkable corner of south-west London into a glorious rush of speed and colour – it’s like seeing Green Lantern and Superman having a pint down Wetherspoon’s, or walking through King’s Cross station and stumbling across the Hogwarts Express. Transforming the quotidian into the quite extraordinary: this is cycling’s peculiar magic, lost on the quibblers and whingers who took issue with having a test-run for next year’s Olympic road race in their backyard. But let’s not let their presence cloud our opening item – we’ll come back to them later, paying particular attention to one portly Irish TV presenter and a curious twist provided by one of his telly chums…

4 DOWN Ted Baillieu
On the subject of extraordinary images, The DYNAMITE! Files can well imagine an old, creaking wooden ship conveying Cadel Evans across the seas like an exotic spice to deliver him to his homeland. In truth, however, the gap of almost two weeks between the Cuddlator winning the Tour de France and his triumphant return to Melbourne on Friday could probably be explained by the round of criteriums and sponsor-related obligations that are usually part of a champion’s lot. That 12-day period appears to have been long enough for local politician Ted Baillieu to dispense with the notion that yellow is a hard colour to wear, especially if you’re standing next to a man who earned the right to adorn himself with that same hue by winning the hardest race in the world. But Ted Baillieu’s yellow shirt and yellow tie combo has now set a fantastic precedent: if, in 12 months’ time, Nick Clegg isn’t standing outside number 10 in a gold lamé suit shaking the hand of new Olympic champion Mark Cavendish, then it will be a major breach of protocol. Mark our words.

3 UP The Assos gatecrasher
Returning to the festival of fun that was the London-Surrey Cycle Classic, it is fitting that the Olympic route encompasses Richmond Park, the unofficial home of London cycling. It is a democratic arena which welcomes the young and the old, the whippets and the whupped alike – so well done to the anonymous, Assos-clad fella who somehow smuggled himself into the peloton to proudly represent the body shape of the less sporty park user. Not even the stares of the nonplussed pros could diminish his jollity. Bravo, sir!

2 UP Cav and Millar’s little secret
What was the “INCREDIBLE news” Mark Cavendish received from David Millar shortly after the Manxman won on the Mall? Has Millar’s autobiography reached the top spot in the Waterstone’s chart? Have the two raconteurs agreed to do a series of head-to-head banterthons, in the style of Alas Smith And Jones? Or is the Scotsman really having Cav’s baby? Here’s our theory: the Manxman is off to Garmin-Cervelo because Sky was unable to match Jonathan Vaughters’ offer of an unlimited supply of his favourite sausages. You heard it here first, chums.

1 DOWN Zora Suleman

Never heard of former breakfast TV gawp magnet Zora Suleman? You’re not alone, because The DYNAMITE! Files was also unaware of her existence until she interposed herself between the considerable bulk of her chum Eamonn Holmes and the righteous ire of tweeting cyclepeople. The row began when sofa-dwelling Eamonn blamed “flamin Olympic bikes”, rather than his inability to plan ahead and make alternative travel plans, for preventing him from driving to a village fete. “Keep sport in a stadium,” he grumbled from a traffic jam on the A3 – presumably with his engine turned off, otherwise that tweet, made from his BlackBerry, is technically an offence. Given that he recently succeeded in banning mentions of his weight from a BBC comedy show, his petulance on this occasion was perhaps not entirely out of character, and he was soon rewarded with robust responses from bike racing fans all over the country (most of them retweeted by Surrey League organiser Ken Prince.) It was pointed out to the Sky presenter that he might not be singing from the same hymn sheet as his employers, who are sponsors of the British cycling team, and many people would expect a public figure to support one of the few events Britain has a chance to win gold in next year, even if the trial run does interrupt his Sunday afternoon drive. And, of course, stadium sports are a regular cause of traffic anyway, as anyone who lives near a London football ground can attest. But it was glamourous newsgatherer Ms Suleman who provided a bizarre denouement to proceedings by claiming she had been “inundated with calls” from irate members of the public who had not heard about the road closures and diversions. Well, no one claimed there wouldn’t be a few people who had escaped the reach of the TfL publicity machine, which had warned of delays for weeks. But “inundated”? Even the Daily Mail, hardly the most bike-friendly news outlet, could only attest to “some” drivers being put out. So which news outlets were “inundated” with calls? None, it seems: after being pressed, Zora admitted she is currently unemployed, and then deleted the offending tweets – although you can still see them here and here. Let’s just hope Eamonn appreciated all the hard work she put in sticking up for him!

Dynamightgiveitamiss No.5: La Gazzetta Della Bolshie

March 14, 2011

UPDATE 19/05/11: It’s taken almost two months, but the Lambsters have finally found this post, and The Berk himself has responded on his blog and Twitter. Apparently I’ve accused him of exploiting his illness for financial gains, I’m a stalker, I want him to shut up and, er, I’m fat (ooh, you BITCH). Of course, none of these statements is even remotely true. Especially the stalker bit – I couldn’t think of anything worse than having to meet The Berk. But this is what angry, slightly dim people do: they make stuff up because they want a fight. And I don’t. Which is why, as I said in my original post, I’ve left the whole pointless world of Dynamoaning behind…

Simon Lamb is a berk. It’s an insult to anyone who is bipolar to dismiss them as simply mad or argue that they are never capable of behaving rationally, or that they have lost the ability to reflect on their actions and own up to their mistakes, so Simon Lamb’s berkishness has absolutely nothing to do with his well-documented condition. (Having said that, the charity Mind might want to consider the wisdom of promoting him in the press as an ambassador for the tolerance and understanding of mental health issues when he demonstrates so little of those two qualities towards those whose unhappiness differs from his own.) But he is unquestionably a berk, and he is a berk for many, many reasons. So if you don’t know or care who Lamb is, now is the moment to bail out of what is going to be a very long post…

For a start, Lamb is a berk because he earned himself a legal warning for branding a blameless journalist a racist without offering any evidence whatsoever to back up his claim. The British writer, he alleged, didn’t give Lamb’s banned hero Alexander Vinokourov a chance to explain himself – a bizarre claim in light of the Kazakh’s unwillingness to offer any sort of credible explanation for his positive doping test. And while I wouldn’t call Lamb a racist, I think he’s a massive berk for not considering that in comparison with the argument about Vino, most people are more likely to raise an eyebrow when a bloke casually uses the phrase “fucking Jews” while tweeting one of his mates.

There’s more, of course. Lots more. Lamb is a berk because he made an unfunny remark about how he would like to see Pat McQuaid die and didn’t apologise when the UCI president’s son politely complained. He’s a berk because his appropriation of a cancer foundation’s logo for his own glorification and, as it appeared to at least one casual observer, seemingly for his own financial gain, was spun into a sentimental story of little-guy-hits-back-at-humourless-legal-bad-guys with, preposterously, none other than Lance Armstrong lurking in the background. He’s a berk for casually mentioning that sales of his massage oils, while perfectly in line with the benefits system he relies on, have funded his sports massage course after originally claiming his website is “purely for my interest in cycling”. He’s a berk when you consider his lofty motto of “calm is the virtue of the strong” is hilariously at odds with the size of his hate list, which includes David Millar, a number of specialist sports magazines, a certain member of Kingston Wheelers cycling club, the Daily Mail and the BBC (surely a unique double-whammy), and, of course, his bete noir Armstrong. And he’s a berk for attacking Shutt Velo Rapide when the fledgling clothing manufacturer allegedly suffered quality control problems with his jerseys and he didn’t get his way on pricing and copyright issues. (Incidentally, Lamb’s beloved Rapha also had quality control issues in its early days which it resolved, and the company now occasionally sends him free gear to review. And the now-defunct website Lamb used to attack Shutt was Velocast, who seemed to be quite happy with their jerseys, which were made by none other than… Shutt Velo Rapide!)

Simon Lamb is a hopeless, floundering, fulminating berk for all of these reasons, and that is enough in itself for La Gazzetta Della Bici, a landfill site for his petty vendettas, cycling-based trivia and uncaptioned photos of dead sportsmen to make my list of things that are the absolute antithesis of this blog. (Incidentally, what kind of egotistical berk appropriates the name of a famous newspaper just to get a few more hits?) But for me, his biggest act of berkishness was when he found out where a complete stranger worked, sent him an abusive message, and accused him of saying something he didn’t. But I would say that, wouldn’t I? Because I was that stranger who stumbled unwittingly into the weird world of Simon Lamb, an angry man perpetually on the lookout for a fight, and in doing so falling far short of the high standards he sets for others.

In May last year, Lamb discovered I was a member of a cycling club he irrationally despises and used this as the flimsy basis to wrongly claim on Twitter that I wanted him to “shout” (sic) his mouth. (A lovely, prophetic irony: I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to shut his mouth – if I had a worst enemy – but I would love him to shout, and shout his mouth off for as long and as loudly as he could, just so he can prove to as many people as possible what a gigantic idiot he actually is.) The previous night, Lamb had blogged in characteristically intemperate and exaggerated terms about a friend of his who he claimed was bullied by a group of London Dynamo riders on the Parkride, the club’s regular Saturday morning outing in Richmond Park. At the time, Lamb had more than a thousand followers, and the link was retweeted at least a dozen times; understandably, then, there was much anger about the incident, particularly as Lamb’s friend and her mate were female and novices, while the Dynamo riders who were said to be shouting at them to move as they went past (which is what the alleged bullying amounted to) were apparently experienced riders and male.

There were just two problems: the specifics of the incident, in the terms Lamb described them, in all likelihood didn’t take place, and he wasn’t there at the time (to this day, no one seems to know who those Dynamos were). The woman, perhaps realising what had actually happened during those fraught moments at that particular road’s busiest time, or maybe concerned at Lamb’s disproportionate anger, apparently got him to call off the dogs after a few days of his unedifying swear-packed tweets, which he had used to propose a ludicrous theory that the majority of Dynamos let the minority get away with pushing around other riders – in other words, fostering a culture of bullying. Behind the scenes, a number of reasonably well-known London-based cycling bloggers were distancing themselves from Lamb’s remarks, and a respected journalist from a bike magazine (not the one he would later brand a racist) expressed his concerns, prompting Lamb to award him the sobriquet of… well, it begins with a “c” and he uses it a lot, so you can probably guess. But it was some subtle diplomacy from the guys who run the club that really did the trick – and so, without his friend to publicly back up his dramatic claims, Lamb turned down an offer to meet the Dynamo committee and removed all the relevant posts from his blog before tweeting a lame warning to the “cowards” in Richmond Park. Ironically, given his readiness to brand other people cowards, that tweet was also later deleted – a common occurrence in the world of Lamb, and the reason I began screengrabbing so many of them. Unfortunately, his deleted blog posts weren’t quite as perishable: they were picked up by another blog, which you can still find with a bit of googling.

London needs Dynamo, despite all its imperfections. Before it began, club cycling in the capital was a closed-off world to anyone who wanted to join the sport (I know because I was one of them), and its club rides still attract scores of cyclists of all abilities throughout the year. But to internet-dwelling wingnuts such as simple Simon, it matters little that Dynamo has welcomed hundreds of people into the sport he supposedly loves, helped them become decent cyclists, and become an actual, real-life community of friends. It also doesn’t matter to them that its committee acts as a means for ordinary cyclists to express their concerns to the authorities dealing with Richmond Park (you have LD partly to thank for partially resolving the horrid resurfacing) or that a committee member recently persuaded the owners of the much-loved MoD track in Chertsey to reopen it for a one-day trial run. Neither do they care that the club takes a very dim view when its members genuinely fail to ride with consideration and care for others. Lamb and others like him see the oft-quoted figure of 400 members and simply equate big with bad. Their attacks follow a tried-and-tested formula: make a false or exaggerated claim on the internet, maintain a level of anonymity by declining the offer of a face-to-face chat and a coffee (easy to set up, given that most of the friendly committee and the faceless complainants are both usually in Richmond Park on Saturday mornings) and fantasise about physically attacking a Dynamo or, in a particularly nasty case on the wretched Veloriders forum which has since been deleted, seeing one of them die. In the face of ever-increasing membership numbers, they also ignore a simple question: why haven’t members left the club in droves if they’re supposedly surrounded by a bunch of arrogant bastards? Wouldn’t you leave if that was the case? Maybe Dynamo has become big in a relatively short space of time because it’s friendly and well-run – or is that statement just too straightforward and logical to comprehend?

And whatever half-baked theory the haters propose, there are numerous sensible counter-arguments. Yes, I’m sure some Dynamos have shouted at other cyclists and switched wheels, but then I’ve witnessed riders from other teams and clubs do the same for years. Yes, poor bike handling has been a feature of LD rides, mainly because a greater proportion is inexperienced in comparison to other large clubs, yet Dynamo’s safety record in relation to the number of miles covered is nevertheless excellent. Yes, it can be intimidating when an experienced group of ‘Mos passes you at speed, even though they endeavour to do it safely – although for every rider who complains we’re going too fast, another will say we’re going too slow. And yes, Dynamos have, regrettably, sometimes been witnessed behaving aggressively when commuting, but then the blue, black and orange tops are a commoner sight than other clubs’ jerseys on London’s streets. (A pertinent, if somewhat vain fact: the look of Dynamo’s kit is one of the most popular reasons members give for joining, which could mean that in comparison with other similar-sized clubs, Dynamos are more likely to wear club colours when not riding with their clubmates.) In truth, Dynamos aren’t ruder than anyone else, nor is there a greater likelihood of them breaking the rules; there are just more of us, and we’re more conspicuous.

Lamb, however, differs in two respects from your typical Dynamo-hater. Firstly, he may not have only fantasised about violence, if his claim that he was a member of a group of football hooligans called the 6.57 crew is anything to go by. And secondly, he is now attempting to show us all how things should be done by starting his very own cycling club – and in the words of one of his internet chums which he was only to happy to use as promotion for his new venture, it’s the “polar opposite” of the outfit which has had such a Lambasting.

Men and women’s racing teams, strong representation at sportives, a website functioning as a virtual clubhouse, weekly club rides and members of all abilities (some of whom are based overseas), not to mention supporting good causes… Gruppo Sportivo Gazzetta’s list of aims is notably ambitious and, perhaps not co-incidentally, somewhat similar to what London Dynamo has already achieved along the way. Indeed, GS Gazzetta, to use its slightly less cumbersome appellation, also seems to share a core Dynamo value in the sense that Lamb realises the importance of having well-designed kit, although the pre-release photos reveal he’s played it a little too safe with an uninspired, Rapha-lite, white-on-black design. Nevertheless, the Gazzas do, as Lambster Tom claims in the above link, represent a real difference to the club I’ve been a member of since its inception, so much so that they may as well be called Not London Dynamo, which would at least be less of a mouthful. And the difference with Not London Dynamo is this: its two leaders, for all their enthusiasm, appear to be remarkably inexperienced riders. Having ridden myself with Lamb’s chum Teresa Houghton and spoken with a friend who rode the London to Paris with her, I would suggest that her focus on spin classes has had a detrimental effect on her ability to develop group riding skills. Lamb, meanwhile, had been riding for barely more than a year when he fractured his left arm and collarbone and wrote off his bike on Not London Dynamo’s first-ever ride last November. In terms of serious accidents per total miles travelled, the Gazzas immediately became a more crash-prone club than London Dynamo before it had even officially accepted its first membership application. Quite an achievement.

Contrast Not London Dynamo – essentially a group of strangers who met on the internet – with the pedigree of London Dynamo’s founders: an accomplished time trialist (Guy Andrews), a talented former BMXer (Russell Short) and a pretty handy road racer (Paul Callinan). That’s a huge range of skills to pass on, especially to the fat, clueless novice I used to be, and of much more practical use than, say, the ability to crow about owning Michael Barry’s hat collection. As far as I’m concerned, Not London Dynamo doesn’t deserve to call itself a cycling club unless it can develop skills and encourage safe riding, because that, essentially, is the true value of the club system. But I wouldn’t hold your breath: contradicting the official rules on the Gazzas’ site, Lamb himself apparently wants his “club” to ignore the two abreast formation fundamental to safe riding because they are supposed to be a “rabble”. He expressed this view a week after coming off, so his accident may have been caused by more than just an error on his part. If that’s the case, the haters will now have another bunch of riders to moan about, perhaps with good reason this time. If they don’t, well, there’s plenty of other reasons to take issue with Lamb, and that could be why he shut down his personal Twitter account a few weeks ago: get off the stage before the audience turns and the rotten tomatoes come flying your way…

I wrote all this for two reasons. Firstly, terms such as “bloody Dynamos” have become the equivalent of “bloody cyclists” for people who ride a bike but are now just as intransigent as the type of motorists all riders dislike, and while I no longer enjoy poking fun at these idiots for using the club I love as their personal punchbag, I couldn’t walk away from these pointless arguments for good without setting the record straight. Secondly, there is virtually no criticism of Lamb online, which is a marked contrast to many of the face-to-face conversations I’ve had during the past ten months, so I wanted to redress that balance in a small way on this little blog – and for the record, I honestly harbour no desire to rival Lamb’s online presence. Given his previous form, Lamb will probably resort to name-calling and dredge up aspects of my life that have little or nothing to do with cycling; maybe he’ll even trawl through my tweets and falsely reason that some of the opinions I express chiefly to my friends are the same as his targeted, vitriolic hate campaigns. But hey, that’s his call, and a measure of his class or lack of it. Either way, I’m not going to mention his name in these pages ever again, and this entry won’t be open for comments – I’ll leave the half-truths, backbiting and exaggerations for his blog.

If you want to support Mind, you can avoid the Gazzas by donating money to the organisation directly. As for supporting young riders, I would recommend you have a look at the John Ibbotson Fund, or maybe even consider entering its auction for Rouleur issue #1. And here’s a final thought to any Lamb fans – and there appears to be many of them – who believe he should remain beyond criticism because of what he’s been through: some defenders of Armstrong say much the same thing about their hero. Do you think, maybe, that Lamb is using mental health issues in a similar way but on a smaller scale to that which many think his hate-target uses cancer? Because if he is, then Lamb isn’t such a berk after all…

The Dynamighty No.2: “Danny Baker, Monday to Friday for instance Thursday.”

January 10, 2011

In the realm of grand oddities, there is a small hamlet nestling in the green nowhereland inhabited by Lewis Carroll, Douglas Adams, the Bonzo Dog Do-Dah Band and Vic ‘n’ Bob, and it doesn’t take the form of a book, a play, a film or a TV series, but a radio phone-in show. It is a humble work of unalloyed joy which has been broadcasting from three ’til 5pm every weekday on BBC Radio London. It has its rules – because every tea party, no matter how giddy, must have rules. Proceedings always begin to the tune of The Candyman, and the host, avoiding the “self-regarding nonsense” of standard radio practice, never tells listeners they’re tuned in to Danny Baker (the pre-recorded faux-serious voice of Chris Morris, as quoted above, sometimes pops up in the middle of records to do the job for him). There are also central tenets of the Baker canon: the Jerry Herman show tune Mame contains the most awkwardly rushed line in recording history (“The whole plantation’s hummin’ since youbroughtDixiebacktoDixieland”), the instrument plinking out the theme to I Dream Of Genie shall forever remain a mystery, and the only hit song where everything starts all at once is, of course, Pulling Mussels (From The Shell) by Squeeze. You might get to hear Chicago’s 25 Or 6 To 4 or even Party In The USA by Miley Cyrus, or more typically Fountains Of Wayne, Erin Bode, Todd Rundgren, Dylan, The Beatles, or some obscure prog rock oddity. But the true genius of the show is the contributions Danny elicits from listeners, such as the exasperated doctor who commanded a Spanish patient to remove his trousers with the immortal words “Adios, pantaloons!”, the fella who turned on his desktop printer to prove its whirrs and beeps sound exactly like the intro to Are “Friends” Electric?, and the terrified young man who heard Fire and thought The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown was speaking to him directly with the line: “YOU’RE GONNA BURN!” (His name? Conor Byrne.)

Yeah, it’s just a radio show, but Danny Baker makes radio shows a bit like Woody Allen used to make films, pitching just above the audience’s heads, so the enjoyment comes from reaching towards his encyclopaedic level of pop cultural knowledge or witnessing others matching his inventive sense of whimsy. I love the way he can make me laugh out loud with a simple yet unusual turn of phrase, and I love the obvious warmth he has for his co-presenters Amy and Baylen. But he hasn’t been around for a few months, and it looks like he’ll be gone a while longer, so I hope he makes a full recovery. Broadcasting is a poorer place for his absence.

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