Posts Tagged ‘London 2012’

Cyclists in comic form

August 30, 2013

Here are two very different comic strips I’ve enjoyed recently, both of them featuring cycling. The first is how many of us would probably like to see ourselves – a glorious phalanx of wheels and whimsy enveloping an entire city – and the other is a chuckle at the grim reality.

I’ve been meaning to write about Bicycle by Ugo Gattoni since Jen gave it to me for my birthday a couple of months ago. Inspired by the 2012 Olympics, this dialogue-free strip is a lurching cityscape featuring a bike race, drawn in a rambunctious, surreal and heavily-detailed style. I guess you might call it Richard Scarry meets Hieronymus Bosch – or you might not if, unlike me, you have a thorough working knowledge of the visual arts.

It comes in a folder and opens out into a long, double-sided poster.

bicycle gattoni open

The sprawling journey is anchored around real landmarks – Big Ben, the London Eye, Regent Street and so on – while the smaller places appear to be made up (Gattoni, who is a Frenchman, has populated his version of Britain’s capital with fictional French shops). I can spot only two references that are the exception to this rule: Nobrow, the publisher of Bicycle, and Look Mum No Hands!, which has an advertisement in a version of the cafe’s distinctive cursive script stuck on the side of the Olympic Stadium.

bicycle gattoni look mum

That gave me a kick. It’s like when Pulp did a song about Bar Italia – you have an indication that a place has left some sort of a mark on the cultural consciousness when it’s referenced in a creative work. Or maybe the Look Mum fellas simply bunged Ugo a few Euros for a plug. Obviously, I prefer the former explanation.

The second strip I’ve come across is two pages in the latest issue of the peerless Viz. In Cockney Wanker, the eponymous cabbie flies into a panic after he runs over a female cyclist. “Is she orwight?” worried Wanker asks his mate Barstard…

viz cockney wanker crash

…before it’s revealed that the “she” he’s concerned about is his beloved black cab.

viz cockney wanker cab

This isn’t really satire or any serious attempt to make a social point. The joy of Viz is watching how the narratives push the already ridiculous characters into ever-more ludicrous extremes. In this case, Wanker gets the injured cyclist to pay for the damage to his vehicle by taking her card out of her handbag and running it through his PDQ.

viz cockney wanker pdq

Sorted.

Victory this way

August 8, 2012

There was a time when I would ride my bicycle into town, thinking that the portly physique I had in those days would never be able to convey me any further. Then one day I fell in with the right crowd (long story – I’ll tell you about it another time) and found myself doing 50-mile rides around Surrey. When you combine these two distinct parts of my life, you have, broadly speaking, the collective routes of the Olympic road races and time trials.

I witnessed parts of these races by the roadside. Jen and I walked from our flat to the mini-roundabout on Fulham Palace Road, where we cheered the men’s road race rolling towards Richmond Park like a procession of dignitaries. A few days later I watched the women’s time trial in Hampton Court. But it was seeing the roads I know well on TV that had the most impact on me.

Staple Lane’s steady ascent, the hairpins on Box Hill, the punchy little climb after Box that Gilbert was the first to tackle – they are only tarmac strips bordering fields, but these are the places that broadened my perspective on how far and how hard I am able to ride. They made me. It was like seeing your first kiss, your old friends, jobs you once had – or lost – gathered together behind the Perspex screen, depersonalised by the context of the race, and all the stranger and more moving for it.

On Monday, I did my usual 70-miler through the Surrey hills. I do the same ride regularly because, regardless of whether I’m planning to race or not, losing myself for five hours a week does my mind a bit of good. I have wondered over the years why more people don’t do the same. This time, I saw the messages that fans had painted on the roads before the pros raced by. One, on Box Hill, reads: “This way to… victory”. And I like to think this kind of graffiti is a victory in itself: a permanent reminder of cyclists’ presence on these roads, and invitation for others to join us and be changed.

A baroque idiocy

July 13, 2012

I read this sentence yesterday:

“You would need to be on weapons-grade hallucinogens to be able to discern the vaguest connection between athletic competition and the baroque idiocy of the sponsorship circus.”

Obviously, it is saying:

“You would have to be on drugs to think there is any meaningful connection between sport and corporate sponsorship of the Olympics.”

But the deeply unfunny combination of words has so many bells and whistles that it becomes what it mocks. The sentence is, in itself, a baroque idiocy.

This is another reason why I think Marina Hyde is a whistling fart.

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #7

June 3, 2011

5 DOWN Piercings
As Giro time trial winner David Millar topped off a fantastic week for British cyclists by showing off a pair of hipster specs in a post-victory interview, one of his former Saunier-Duval team-mates was facing the very real possibility that he too might be changing his image. Ivano Fanini, owner of the Italian Continental Amore & Vita team, revealed on Tuesday that he was ready to sign Riccardo Riccò, providing the ginger doper “removed the two earrings, piercings and also the diamond embedded in a tooth”. It’s easy to criticise Fanini for putting cosmetic alterations as his number one priority while issues related directly to the Cobra’s doping past only made third and fifth on his list. But this is Riccò we’re dealing with, a man so dim-witted that the ability to put in an earring without his earlobe going septic is probably an immense source of pride. In this context, you can imagine the psychological challenge the one-time wannabe barman was facing – which could be why he walked away from Amore & Vita and signed for Meridian-Kamen the very next day. Heigh ho.

4 UP Leather
Staying with the serious business of makeovers, those monochrome fashionistas at Team Leopard Trek have given their style-conscious fans the opportunity to buy the same leather jacket that Andy Schleck and Fabian Cancellara will be working this season. “Shop the look”, the Leopards command, somewhat confusingly. But which look to go for: cabaret Justin Timberlake tribute act or underweight Judge Dredd? And would you really be willing to pay £570 for the privilege?

3 UP Nudity The naked human form cannot possibly offend when placed atop a bike – and BBC2 viewers were reminded of this simple truth during the Bank Holiday weekend when the whimsical video for Bicycle Race popped up during Days Of Our Lives, a wonderful new two-part documentary on Queen. Sadly, magistrates in Suffolk have not learned this lesson from history, as they recently fined 23-year-old cyclist Alexander Purser £500 and handed him an 18-month conditional discharge for trying to set off a speed trap while wearing only his trainers and a pair of spectacles. Spoilsports.

2 DOWN Gyroscopic force
Regular readers may well suspect that The DYNAMITE! Files knows next-to-nothing about the science behind bicycles, and they would be entirely correct to make that assumption. In fact, the only bike-based scientific theory we know is that gyroscopic forces on the front wheel and the angle of the fork increase stability – and now it turns out that both have been debunked. So thanks to the experimental model demonstrated by Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin, no one knows exactly how bikes stay upright. Damn you, science!

1 DOWN Olympics tickets
Like Stonehenge or the Wandsworth one-way system, mankind may well never fathom the rationale behind the Olympic ticketing process – but after a quarter of a million people were left empty-handed on Wednesday morning, we now have a vague clue to how the fiendish ballot operators decided who should be kept out of sports venues next year. Bradley Wiggins, Boris Johnson, The DYNAMITE! Files and just about everyone we know personally on that there Twitter were turned down, including the Olympics’ very own Head of New Media and friend of this weblog Alex Balfour – and it is obviously no coincidence that all of us ride bicycles. If that’s not a clear case of minority discrimination, chums, we don’t know what is! To make matters worse, it was London’s racing cyclists who let the 2012 visionaries bulldoze the legendary Eastway circuit to build the Pringle-roofed velodrome overlooking the A12, and now they’ll be locked out when Team GB bag their gold medals. At this point, you may expect a scathing diatribe about the situation (particularly as Condor Cycles this week identified our reputation for having “a sharp tongue”) but The DYNAMITE! Files isn’t all that bothered, actually. It’s the Olympics – a spectacle, yes, but not as jaw-droppingly awesome as, say, Prince live at Wembley, nor as historically resonant as the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the case of track cycling, it’s just people doing something similar to what we do, but faster. And, course, it will be on the telly. But if you’re still desperate for tickets, then check out the website for the Olympics’ German vendor, which was apparently prohibited from advertising in the UK but is obliged to shift tickets. There’s no cycling, although you can grab a seat at the third round of the women’s ping-pong for 120 smackers. Don’t say we never do anything for you.

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #4

April 29, 2011

5 UP Carbon fibre
Take that, wood! Get out of town, laser-fused nylon! Run to the funny farm, loopy steel stays! Because after three relentless weeks of challenges to its reputation as the most exotic type of material for a frame, carbon fibre has hit back with a huge loom whose sinister, silky precision will instantly mesmerise every hater of the dark stuff. Yes, the clip below is made by a car manufacturer, but it is surely only a matter of time before this robotic method of production becomes the norm for bike frames – and when the machines finally take over, friends, you can bet your Madone there will be a reappraisal of the traditional artistry of Taiwanese sweatshop workers.

4 DOWN The Oxford English Dictionary
A confession: The DYNAMITE! Files has never been privy to a conversation where “ankle” has been deployed as a verb – but apparently somebody, somewhere frequently uses the term to describe “flexing the ankles while cycling in order to increase pedalling efficiency”, because the phrase was given its very own entry in the Oxford English Dictionary this week. For the 2012 edition, the OED’s lexicographers might want to include a word most cycle fans actually recognise, such as “packing”, “glass-cranking” or, er, “suitcase” (noun: a storage device for courage, as used by ITV’s Paul Sherwen).

3 UP Mark Cavendish
“Did a training ride/race today. It went well/didn’t go well. Roll on the next training ride/race!” If the standard formula of pro cyclists’ tweets are beginning to tire you, then you obviously haven’t heard (ring the lap bell!) that Mark Cavendish finally made his Twitter debut this week. Subjects so far include weird Italian fashions, poor air travel etiquette, the indignity of the massage table and a re-enactment of a scene from Lord of The Rings. Easily the funniest and most engaging professional cyclist in the Twitterverse, and he hasn’t even raced since signing up. Raise your Twitter game, Fabian!

2 UP Olympics
Bad news for track fans who are deep-of-pocket yet slow-off-the-mark: your chance of spending £325 for the privilege of watching less than three hours of cycling has all but vanished. But don’t despair, because although the events at the Olympic velodrome were sold out by the end of the Tuesday night deadline, you may just be able to pick up a ticket or two for the men’s road race. Yes, you’ll be paying £60 for what is otherwise a free event, but you’ll be able to tell your grandchildren you listened to some national anthems you probably never heard before while the medals were given out. And that, chums, is priceless.

1 UP Germain Burton
On the subject of witnessing unique moments, a 16-year-old boy won the first Crystal Palace elite race of the season on Tuesday night. Naturally, most of the tweeting about that notable evening has centred around the subsequent arson attack that destroyed the organisers’ equipment, but even so, there seemed to be a conspicuous lack of amazed comments that accompanied Germain Burton’s win. Perhaps that’s because the teenager has pedigree (his dad is British track legend Maurice Burton) and he’s already won the Bec Hill Climb, which makes his win seem less surprising. Or could it be that the Palace regulars don’t like mentioning they were beaten by a schoolboy? Surely not!

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